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Tilly Aston Bell (1999 - )

Go to Gallery Page Tilly Aston Bell
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Location: Kings Domain, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Bronze sculpture by Anton Hasell

The ‘Tilly Aston Bell’, is my first interactive bell sculpture installation and the design of the bells for this installation began the collaboration between Neil McLachlan and I. While I have been designing and casting bells for a number of years, this installation marked the transition of my sculpted bells in our musical bells. My proposal was submitted to ‘The Association for the Blind’ (now ‘Vision Australia’) as an expression of interest proposal to celebrate the centenary of the Association’s foundation by the remarkable Matilda Aston in 1896.

The brief seemed to present a perfect opportunity to develop a multi-sensory work. The original site proposed for the chosen work was near ‘Sinclair’s House’ in the Fitzroy Gardens. These gardens were first designed by Von Mueller, and are one of the more important gardens outside the Botanical Gardens. The original re-development of the gardens around the Sinclair House precinct, in which the sculpture was to be situated, faced objections from the community, and after several years of controversy, the City of Melbourne located a place for the work in the Domain Gardens next to the ‘Pioneer Women’s Garden’ and close to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

The original sculpture was to be set in an open grassy area, and I had stipulated that a camomile lawn would be planted around it. People drawn toward the sculpture by its ringing bells (set off by the movement sensors at the base of the sculpture) would be enveloped by the fruity scents of the plant as it was crushed underfoot. On one of these three bells was cast relief images from the imagined moments from the life of Tilly Aston, along with her quote: “Poor eyes limit your site, poor vision limits your deeds”. A second bell was lined along its rim with the same message in Braille. The third bell had handprints impressed into the surface of the bell. These were left by sight-impaired users of the Association’s facilities who visited my studio and laid their hands on a clay stage of the bell.

The celebratory nature of this installation demanded a multi-sensory proposal with a strongly interactive element to enrich the experience of the bells for those who came into contact with the sculpture. Ultimately, every part of the sensory regime outlined in the original proposal was satisfied except the camomile lawn. The work was not positioned on grassland but set in a widened gravel pathway.

I think the work has a wonderful feel, standing quietly aside until someone approaches it. It begins ringing, and I have often watched people’s reactions to the work. At first surprised, the bells then delight most people. As a 10 second delay was built into the electronics setting off the bells, it is difficult for those engaging with the work to establish which movements ring which bells. By dancing around the work and damping particular bells with your hands you can generate unusual combinations of the bells ringing against one another. The design of the three bells, with consonant overtones between each, ensures that whatever combinations of bells are chimed, they resonate in satisfying harmony.

After this collaboration Neil McLachlan and I began our journey into bells, their history and traditions, their design and casting and the possibilities of developing other bell sculpture installation sites. As humble as it may seem in contrast to the Federation Bells Carillon or the Victoria Police Memorial, Tilly Aston Bell conveys the sense of joyous experience that is central to the intended outcome of my works generally.

Note: The above text is an edited extract from Anton Hasell’s 2002 PhD thesis "The Secular Sonorous Site: New Technology in Multi-sensory Public Art".

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Published Resources


  • Hasell, Anton Glenn, 'The Secular Sonorous Site: New Technology in Multi-sensory Public Art', Thesis, Faculty of the Constructed Environment, School of Architecture and Design, RMIT, 2002. [ Details... ]

Prepared by: Iain Mott
Created: 3 May 2006
Modified: 29 August 2006

Published by The University of Melbourne
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: i.mott@unimelb.edu.au
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 18 January 2007

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