Realised on 17 February–20 March2023 on the Sydney Footbridge Gallery Dash Wall, NSW.
'45' is inspired by the rainbow font "Gilbert", originally designed by Hayato Yamasaki after the lateGilbert Baker, who created the ubiquitous rainbow flag and was a prominent gay rights' activist in the United States. This rainbow light installation transformed the University of Sydney Camperdown campus into a light installation animating the number ‘45’ to mark the 45th anniversary of the 2023Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival. My rainbow mural light installation asks each passer-by what it means to be part of a community: ‘What it means to be part of a group of friends who love each other, who see the best versions of each one of us.’ The light mural illuminated what is the second most travelled path into and out of University of Sydney’s Camperdown campus, drawing university students, staff, and the public to travel what is normally dark at dusk now through a colourful and playful safe passage.
The Sydney Gay and LesbianMardi Gras has always countered violence and intolerance with colour, music, and imagination. I strongly believe that queering the design field — challenging normative assumptions, centring marginalised voices, and embracing diverse perspectives — is an unmet urgent need today. Public design and designing for the public space play a leading role in shaping public policy. In my practice queer design means openly embracing who I am, my cultural and social identities, and recognising the messy interactions hidden within.Practicing queer design is to have ownership when telling my story, foregrounding the story of the 1978 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras protest, via an animated typographical motif realised through lighting design. DrLuke Hespanhol, director of the Sydney Footbridge Gallery was thrilled to seethe work realised. “I’ve never seen or imagined the Dash Wall used this way”, praising my site-specific mural that closely follows the contours of the architectural façade.
I proposed the initial design pitch in response to Sydney WorldPride call for public art and realised this solo work for the launch of the inaugural Hunt-Simes Institute in Sexuality Studies. The Institute offers a selective international fellowship scheme for early- and mid-career researchers in queer and sexuality studies to visit the Sydney Social Sciences andHumanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC) and teach a two-week ‘Queering the Classroom’ research program for higher degree research and post-doctoral researchers. I was a Junior Visiting Faculty and taught in the program.
ProfessorLee Wallace, Director of SSSHARC at the University of Sydney, published a strong affirmation in her support of LGBTQIA+ work in a press release: “The Centre is extremely proud to be part of Rainbow City with a mural of lights and to be commemorating 45 years of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras ... and continues that tradition and welcomes all queer visitors and their friends onto our campus at dusk to see Xavier Ho’s brilliant light mural.” SSSHARC and the Bad Dog DJ Music Group provided family-friendly music events from dusk near the rainbow light mural for the public. My unique rainbow light elevated SydneyFootbridge Gallery onto the international stage through the Sydney WorldPride festival.
‘45’ was launched as part of the Sydney WorldPride Rainbow City program, according to its report had an estimated 1.07m visitors in inner Sydney for the three-week festival period. From 2024 to 2025, I accepted the invitation to return as a SSSHARC Visiting Research Fellow working on an unannounced game project with a view to launching social enterprise with my collaborators at The University Sydney and the Australian Roleplay Community.