Friday, 23 December 2005

Statuary Friday #20

My ongoing blog project - documenting Melbourne's open-air public sculpture in words and pictures. Suggestions for future episodes are more than welcome.

#20 Silence

New Quay Promenade, Docklands

Silence (2003), by Adrian Mauriks, is yet another of the public artworks comissioned by the Docklands Authority for this new & flash housing and tourist zone where Melbourne's docks used to be, at the mouth of the Yarra river, between the southern edge of the City and the suburbs ringed around Hobson's Bay. I've written about Eagle and Cow Up A Tree already, but there are at least twelve more pieces scattered around the Docklands area, a consequence of the policy whereby developers operating in this precinct have to spend 1% of the capital costs of their projects on public art projects.

The Docklands area as a whole gives me the faint creeps - partly because I haven't spent enough time there to really understand its geography, but mostly because it seems to have acquired its architectural character (such as it is) with unnatural suddenness. If you could describe the buildings in an area as a family, you might say that here, in place of the usual generational cycles and reproductive dynamics which ensure historical continuity, renewal, and overall balance between individuality and kinship, all the family members are coeval siblings, biological clones with surgically created cosmetic differences.

One reason why Silence seems to me to work better than most stuff in the locale is that it embodies the characteristic uncanniness of the Docklands environment. It has that futuristic Radiant City sci-fi quality; lots of the things look like artifical forms generated by some kind of highly mthematical VR program involving Mandelbrot sets and Fibonaci numbers; some look like cartoonish versions of standard quirky character types; and being formed from smooth off-white plastic, the whole set matches the pseudo-Milanese home furnishings from Freedom and Domain which are ubiquitous in Docklands display apartments.

This pavillion, for instance, reminds me of Smurfs and other creatures that live in houses resembling mushrooms. It also looks like a piece of retro furniture based on a design by Verner Panton, so it pings on both the family fun and the inner-city groover radars. Under the pavillion is a bronze plaque with a rather obscure poem that I think is by the artist - I neglected to note it down.

The object in the foreground looks irresistibly like a dog or other pattable creature. In fact while I was taking these pictures a small boy ran up and put his arms around its "neck." It seems to be about to go through a doorway or portal of some sort. There's also an arched doorway shape in the group. Together they made me think of William Gibson's cyberspace where there are data forms and spaces, but also of Play School's arched, round, and square story windows (guess those things aren't so different, really.) There's another domestic animal type thing in the second picture; the way it looks up, so very eagerly doggily, at the two things standing by it, makes those two things look like fond pet owners, therefore as some kind of sentient family unit; without the pet they'd probably look like plants or windmills or something.

These things are definitely personages, though whether gendered or marked out in any other obvious manner I couldn't say. I like the way their bodies are so jauntily articulated. The heads look like thumbs from some angles, elaborate hairstyles from others, and clouds or globules of whipped cream from other angles again.

I am a poor photographer and found it impossible to take a picture which gives a sense of how the group appears as a whole when you're actually standing near it. The plaza it stands on is quite small and intimate and has tallish buildings on three sides and open water on the fourth. There's a nicer-looking but spatially unreal picture on the Docklands Authority's website.


elsewhere said...

Love the photography...impressed that you have any remotely intellectual thoughts left at this time of year.

Btw, I tagged you with the weird meme.

Lucy Tartan said...

Yes! Thanks for the meme. I'm trying to think of the requisite number of habits that are conceivably weird, not merely gross or boring.

nowhere_sound said...

Great writing Lucy, I particularly liked the metaphor you used in describing the buildings' appearance.
I've not been down there yet but having seen your photos it'll give me good reason to.
I like the cloudesque quality to the sculptures in conjuring up a kind of dreamscape but to me it smacks of kitsch at the same time.

Sonia said...

Amazing this post, Lucy!
Love your project about "documenting Melbourne's open-air public sculpture in words and pictures". Well done!
I bookmark you and I will return soon.
Have a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with peace and love.
Regards from Sonia (São Paulo,Brazil).

R H said...

What's this filthy rotten thing supposed to be? It looks like old bones I dug up in my backyard. Or a mannequin explosion in Myers window. What a joke! Bloody disgrace!

So this is 'public art' in our day and age.

This is what we've sunk to.

Good Heavens. People are putting up with anything. Knock up some trash and call it art. Whatever you like. Yes, well why not; who'd be any the wiser. The mugs wouldn't know. Art is what bankers say it is! Debtors do as they're told.

Tony.T said...

They are the desiccated bones of genuine fans burnt by Big Football.

Liz Richmond said...

we enjoyed your site, especially the photography! We have been working for many years on collecting photographs of public art - sculpture - by women artists around Melbourne for the Australian Women's Art Register website - see link below. The outdoor environment in Melbourne is enriched by a diversity of memorable artworks dating back over a century.

Liz and Juliette

schwa said...
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