Friday, 8 April 2005

Statuary Friday #3

Ok, here's my project: or perhaps it's a meme: though I doubt anything qualifies as a meme if only one person is onto it. Well, anyway, every Friday I do a different piece of sculpture selected from the vast numbers littered around lovely Melbourne. My only criteria are: it must be outdoors, it must be more or less permanent, and it must be in a publically accessible location. (Suggestions, especially for sculpture in the 'burbs, are very welcome.)

#3 Fairfield Industrial Dog Object (FIDO)

next to Fairfield Station: corner of Station and Wingrove Sts, Fairfield

FIDO is six metres high. It's made of recycled hardwood, steel, and electronics (its eyes light up at night, and the ears and tail are meant to move & its meant to talk, but I think these features might be broken...) It is a collaboration by Jacki Staude, Ian Sinclair, Alistair Knox, and David Davies. The plaque beside it says: it was "Acquired by the City of Darebin as part of their Art in Public Places Program", "unveiled on 1 April 2000, by Cr. Tim Singh Laurence, Mayor", and thanks "the people of Fairfield who participated in Community Consultations", and also "Cr. Marlene Kairouz, Ward Councillor." Phew, what a mouthful.

As the plaque implies, FIDO is an example of municipal public art installed in the era of rebuilding following the forced local government amalgamations of the mid 1990s. What the plaque doesn't say is that the scuplture cost $50,000 - which is not very much to pay for the quantity of media coverage the City of Darebin received at the time.

If the news hounds (sorry) were hoping to stir up a controversy along Vault lines, they missed out. FIDO could have been deliberately designed to stop anything like that from happening. It's a giant wooden dog. Man's Best Friend! Dogs are friendly, familiar, domestic, unthreatening. Even though this one is so enormous it's far from scary: people walk under it to get to the platform, instead of going around. (The warmth and humbleness of the material helps, as does the lovely clearness and simplicity of the outline.) It stands in that wistfully earnest doggy way that you see them doing as they wait on the footpath outside the fish and chip shop. Dogs are funny and relaxed and totally Aussie. It looks a bit like the poo-shooting dog on Mambo t-shirts, and it has that overgrown ridiculous air, like the big wooden rabbit in Monty Python's Holy Grail movie.

As with the Trojan rabbit, there may or may not be something ominous hidden inside FIDO's belly. Fairfield is radically different than it was twenty and even five years ago: it's been gentrified to the max. Clearly, what the City of Darebin wants this sculpture to say to passers-by is that Fairfield is a place where you can have both an edgy, arty public culture, and a backyard bigger than a postage stamp - it's not accidental that the dog faces away from Fitzroy and Carlton, and toward the outer northern suburbs. Maybe that's where the workers and emigrants went when the yuppies moved in? Everyone will have her or his own opinion about whether Fairfield & similar suburbs - Elsternwick, Yarraville - are better now than they used to be (I refer you to the Comment box.) And I think the same is true of this sculpture: everyone will have a different way of working out whether it's real art or propagandist kitsch.


Arty Fufkin said...

And FIDO points its arse in the general direction of those of us on the train headed for the wrong side of the Darebin creek.

cileo said...

There was idle chatter during the early dazes (ie: public consultations/discussion) that Fidos tail would wag when trains departed from Fairfield station.

Pah! A wasted opportunity for integrated sustainable transport! (if you were running late, and had clear sightlines along Station Street)

Amazed no one from N-E suburbs (ie: further out) from Fairfield have tried to burn down the canine yet.

katy said...

I love spotting FIDO on the train into the city. It was actually one of the main reasons I insisted that my beau and I househunt around fairfield before we settled on our current house.

But what I really want from FIDO, is a booming version of Ivan, housed outside Sydney's QVB - where the bronze statue of Queenie's faithful dog is given "the power of speech"... through John Laws! It's a triumph in unintentional kitsch, and I always visit Ivan on a visit back to Sin City.

Lucy Tartan said...

my main beef with fido is that he's not a cat. Whither the giant wooden cat??