Christopher Rimmer’s portraits of Luna Park invert our expectations. This series transforms the tourist hotspot to a "gaping mouth" of other-worldly sin. In these five questions, Chris discusses the park, the myth and the art. ‘The Dark Heart of Luna Park’ is exhibiting this month as part of Angela Tandori Fine Art and Port Jackson Press’s group exhibition ‘Eclipse’. Explore all the works here.
When did your perception of Luna Park shift?
My perception of Luna Park changed after I read a book written in 1979 by Andrew Mallon entitled: Leonski – The Brown Out Murders, which chronicled a series of murders committed by a deranged G.I. who was billeted in Melbourne during WWII. Luna Park forms a backdrop to the story since the perpetrator, Edward Leonski, used the venue to stalk potential victims.
This narrative cured the acquired blindness I had developed towards Luna Park, which was a place I saw every day - when I started seeing it again, I re-imagined its gaping mouth as an entry point leading into a parallel universe of chaos and distortion.
Theme parks often have eerie undertones - where do you think that comes from?
Perhaps it is because theme parks offer an alternative reality and despite this reality being manufactured, it has within itself the potential to represent a darker psychological experience. During daylight hours, theme parks appear innocuous and somewhat forlorn, but when night falls they are transformed into something far more primitive and enticing.
What was the experience like shooting Luna Park?
Often cold and wet; most of the photography was framed from an elevated perspective from the roof of a 4 x 4 vehicle during some dramatic weather events and so I was exposed to that frigid wind which blows in across Port Phillip from the south west. When photographing the interior during the summer months I remember the smudged faces of people and smell which was a combination of saturated fat and sugar, it was all quite horrific and alien.
Do you think the idea of a theme park is outdated?
Theme Parks like Luna Park are hopelessly outdated because of the advent of digital technology. On the surface, the entertainment on offer is unsophisticated and a bit banal by modern standards, though I imagine Luna Park could regain some of its former popularity if the management included LSD or some other psycho active drug in the price of a ticket.
In your blog-post on the topic, you discuss the cultural decline of St Kilda. Do you have hope it will resurge as the "bohemian heartland" you remember?
St Kilda will never re-emerge as the Bohemian heartland I once knew and why should it? It’s not like the Birthday Party are going to come back and play at the Seaview Ballroom any time soon and even if they did, it would be completely alien to the original experience. That being said, everyone views St Kilda through a prism of their own experience and perhaps it already has emerged as a ‘Bohemian heartland’ for other people right here and right now. I have no desire to obtain a mortgage on what others should experience during any particular time in space – I only own my own experience so the perception of decline is personal and may not even be relevant.