Melbourne International Arts Festival Review: Campagnie Carabosse’s Fire Gardens light up Royal Botanic Gardens

Fire and gardens… it’s not exactly what you expect to go together isn’t it? Yet as the sun starts to set across Melbourne, the Royal Botanic Gardens are only just lighting up with a (completely sold out) installation churning with people and garden pots filled with flames. Different, immersive and enveloped in an eerie atmosphere, highly acclaimed French artist Campagnie Carabosse has gone beyond expectations.

Despite a slow procession of people it was the clear that from the moment we stepped through the gates, we were going to be met by something a little more than ordinary. With huge crowds and flames to match, the installation was beyond incredible and in the cool October air, we kept our bodies close to the fiery warmth. Our path is lined by flames, haunted metal robots and retro speakers that each hold a different snippet of conversation, giving the entire exhibition a mildly creepy feeling. Men in bowler hats cross our paths and keep the fires lit and as we follow the burning breadcrumbs, a trickling of ghostly folk-electronic music begins to float past. We wander through arches of flames and find ourselves perched beside a lake thats glistening with huge fiery balls (tehe) and a lotus-like structure that opens and closes, sending a rush of flames into the air every time the mechanised petals collide. It’s other-worldly, oddly romantic and incredible.

Musicians litter the gardens with sinister, folk tracks that echo around us and white singlets are turned into lanterns that hang amongst the branches, leaving us feeling as if we were stuck in a fairytale. When I first walked in, I expected to spend a solid twenty minutes exploring but instead I got myself lost in the magical, burning mess for well over an hour and I feared that I might never find the exit. But did I want to find the exit? That was the question.

Whilst at times I felt that the installations were fairly minimal and finding some form of meaning behind it all was difficult, the gardens created the perfect avenue to immerse ourselves in nature and the quaint, simplistic beauty beckoned us in. Whether it be a trip with the family, an adventure with friends, dragging your lover along or even just wandering through alone, Carabrosse’s Fire Gardens was enjoyed by all.


Fire Gardens has now finished its exhibition, however Melbourne International Arts Festival has plenty more amazing things to explore! Head on over to the website HERE to find out more.

This reviewer attended the installation at The Royal Botanic Gardens on the 11th of October.