Sunday, 18 June 2006

Statuary Friday #26

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

#26 Red Centre



Federation Square, City

Red Centre is a new sculpture in Melbourne. Fed Square launched it on June 6. It stands on the asphalt concourse connecting St Kilda Rd with Birrarung Marr, just down from Transport - opposite the rowing clubs on the other bank of the river. It's the work of Konstantin Dimopoulos who is probably best known in this city for the controversial blue trees project - Sacred Grove - which didn't happen last year. One of Dimopoulos's works was a finalist in this year's Lempriere Award, you may recall.




Red Centre is a sculpture that moves. It is made of about 300 partly flexible fibreglass rods, each one about 1.5cm in diameter and six or seven metres long, planted in the ground in a regular grid formation, inside a circular area about a metre in diameter. The rods, which individually have that wobbly tensile balance you only find in fibreglass and steel, are glossy and smooth and coloured red, with some very occasionally orange and yellow and slate grey. Around the circle there are uplights embedded in the ashphalt which set the sculpture glowing after dark. At rest, the sculpture is symmetrical and straight - I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to get so many long quivery rods standing perfectly even and upright - but when it's stirred by currents of wind or by human hands it ripples and clanks and shifts about.



The sculpture calls to mind both a tussock of dry native grass and a column of flames or sparks - or rather, it calls up a virtual, stylised imagining of those natural forms. Its name of course refers to the central Australian landscape where both those things might be imagined to belong. That reference connects it with one of the best things about Federation Square proper, the Kimberley sandstone paving, which I never look at without delight and and wonder, and also a bit of puzzlement at what it's doing in cool silvery grey Melbourne. I feel a bit the same about Red Centre, because Yarraside is not the Outback and there is no natural connection, although if it had a different name it probably would not seem quite so incongruous. I also think the sculpture would have looked pretty good up in Federation Square against the brushed metal and stone - down in the bitumen section, near the heavy Victorian bridge and pillars, it's something of a of a sculpture unto itself.



The day we visited, Red Centre was cordoned off, in accordance with the usual half-arsed way Fed Square approaches crowd control, inside a ring of those temporary barriers used to make ticketing queues. But what with one thing and another, somehow a segment of the barrier got moved aside and various people out for a Sunday meander succumbed to the quite irresistible desire to get up close to the sculpture and gently and curiously touch it.



In fact two minutes standing in the vicinity will tell you two things about Red Centre. First, unlike the blue trees, it is a massive hit with Melburnians, especially children, with all that that implies for good or bad about the post-Vault absence of challenging public art in the City of Melbourne. Second, it is quite impossible to credit that anybody involved with the project gave even five seconds' thought to whether the sculpture is tough enough to stand up to the physical wear it will get at this location.

I will be surprised if it lasts a year.

14 comments:

R H said...

How interesting.

I hope someone sets fire to it.

Ampersand Duck said...

The video is a nice touch -- I could hear the clankiness of the rods. if you ever get a chance to photograph it at night, it would be interesting to see it. It would add quite a magical quality.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Apparently its power extends even over teh internets. LG took one look at the video and announced that we should go see it. When I answered regretfully that it is in Australia and we are not, he responded, "Well. Then let's go to Australia and see it."

Scrivener said...

What a cool sculpture! And was that you chuckling at the end?

But ... um ... you do know that today's Sunday, right?

Lucy Tartan said...

LG is welcome here any time. This sculpture is right opposite a very cool Edwardian train station too...

Yes, that's me laughing, David. I wonder if you had the same sensation I had when I heard you introduce yourself playing "Secret Agent Man" - as well as you know where the person lives, the accent is still a small surprise.

Sunday, schmunday.

worldpeace_and_aspeedboat said...

mmmm that is a really tasty sculpture! it must be irresistable. I wouldn't be able to go past it...

Suse said...

I haven't seen it in the flesh yet, and didn't quite realise how TALL it is until I saw the video.

But I heard it already has a nickname. Gay Wheat.

sublime-ation said...

I also thought it was funny that The Age quoted the 'gay wheat' comment.
What I love about public sculpture is that it's often hideous, and if it's good (ie Vault) the public hate it. I also love generations of kids playing on it, ie Inge King's work by the Arts Centre, which has been so beatifully worn from being used as a slide all these years.

Lucy Tartan said...

I deeply dislike the "gay wheat" label, and I'm a bit disappointed someone as smart as Jonathan Green felt the need to include it in his article, attributing it to a conveniently unnamed bystander is classic disowning tactics. Nothing cements a derogatory label like printing it in the newspaper.

Particularly sad that Green acknowledges Yellow Peril is a nickname that borrows its verbal energy from racism, and then wonders if Melbourne is a more enlightened city now than in the early 1980s. Swapping racism for homophobia doesn't exactly suggest progress.

pk said...

Perhaps if a child was tastefully impaled on each rod...?

Edwardian and day-glo plastic as a juxtaposition seems potentially a little umm...incongruous.
=====
I laughed when I read 'gay wheat'. Perhaps it is meant in a derogatory fashion but it comes across to me (without too much context) as humorous at first blush and maybe there is some level of stereotype mocking going on (and the GLBT section of the world don't poke fun at those?), but I'm not so sure it rises to a level of homophobia.

Val said...

Well, I don't care what they call it, but I do want to see it. Looks and sounds like fun. Thanks for the video.

Anonymous said...

Why the Kimberley rocks?

A good question. For a while I thought it was because the joint was designed by some English architects who kind of didnt get the difference between us and North Western Western Australia.

That may still be true, but I do know that there was another explanation proferred as they started the onerous process of bringing thousands of tons of Kimberley sandstone down. The place is a symbol for Federation (der) and someone, probably on a whiteboard (double der) figured out that Federation is about mixing and getting together and therefore a goed metaphor about that is sedimentation and so....

They could just have well have said that Federation is about one thing forged in the fire of politics and ended up with volcanic bluestone. I am grateful they didn't because the stuff is so much grimmer and I as a cyclist dislike Melbourne's official fascination with the stuff.

I wonder if that art work is assumed to be ephemeral? Like grass..

- barista

Pixie said...

Ahh, we have a Kon of our own in Wellington. See it here
http://www.sculpture.org.nz/engine/SID/10007/AID/1049.htm
I quite like it. It is on a wild traffic island of huge proportions on the way to the airport and it seems to be bearing up well after a few years in the teeth of Wellington's famous winds howling straight off the harbour. It is the kind of traffice island that would never see a pedestrian though a family of rabbits was famously spotted there. Perhaps I shall rise to the challenge and photograph it.

Anonymous said...

suck i live in australia