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Bonita Ely, Thunderbolt (2010-2012).
Bonita Ely, Thunderbolt [at Sydney Olympic Park] (2010-2012).
Bonita Ely, Thunderbolt [at Broken Hill] (2010-2012).


Thunderbolt, commissioned by the Sydney Olympic Park Authority, is a computerised sculpture erected to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sydney Olympic Games. The installation is brightly lit at night, and a solar powered digital interface changes the colour of the lights in response to fluctuations in energy consumption of the local community. Low usage levels are reflected by green lights, whereas high consumption results in dramatic red lighting. The technologies utilised were borne from a collaboration between the House of Laudanum and the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales. The materials used to construct the work are directly related to the community focus of Bonita Ely’s residency in Broken Hill, but also comment on broader issues of sustainability through the inclusion of recycled metals from a disused windmill. The sculpture was initially installed at Jacaranda Square at Sydney Olympic Park, and is now permanently located in Broken Hill - from where its materials were sourced. Thunderbolt is located at an intersection of disciplines concerned with sustainability. It aims to effectively visualise otherwise invisible consumption modes. Thunderbolt is demonstrative environmentalism, operating entirely off the grid while simultaneously indicating community presence on it. As a sculpture that straddles the categories of public artwork and public infrastructure, Thunderbolt functions as a totem for environmental awareness; a constant reminder about the dangers of energy exploitation and waste.

Thunderbolt was featured in the solar art exhibition, Desert Equinox 2012. 

This project was developed in partnership with the Environmental Research Initiative for Art (ERIA), Broken Hill Art Exchange, and the House of Laudanum. 

Thunderbolt has been supported by the Sydney Olympic Park Auhtority (SOPA), EnergyAustralia, Essential Energy, Desert Knowledge Australia, Coles—South Broken Hill. 

Project date

2010 to 2012

Funding type

Government Commission


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