Friday, 19 May 2006

Statuary Friday #25

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

#25 Origin

Chadstone Shopping Centre, Dandenong Rd, East Malvern

According to Melbourne oral culture Chaddy is the only structure on the face of the Australian continent that is visible from space....seems a tiny bit improbable to me, but the undeniable fact the legend recognises is that Chadstone, one of this country's oldest and biggest malls, is monstrously, gargantuanly, intergalactically overblown, and wandering around inside of it or walking the external perimeter is uncannily like drifting across an unearthly, alien landscape.

Although it contains exactly the same chain stores, food courts, cinemas, services etc as all other shopping centres, Chadstone's iterations are bigger, newer, plusher, better stocked and fitted out and generally more intense and concentrated and perfect and exquisitely formed than their pallid clones elsewhere. Quite frankly, Chadstone is a cut above. Shopping there is not just about mindless consumption, it's a bona fide aesthetic experience which, as New Waver pointed out, etherealises the soul. Truly. And Chaddy has a collection of actual sculpture which in fairness is probably of better quality than what most city councils can come up with.

Origin was commissioned by Chadstone in 1999 from the South Australian sculptor Greg Johns. I gather that Johns had already arrived at this form but had planned to build a smaller object and to call it "Birth". It's an interesting name change. "Origin" does say fairly bluntly that this place here is the source from where everything flows forth and where everything begins, without drawing on the sort of biological and personal (not to mention feminine) connotations of birth.

The sculpture itself, as far as I can understand it, has no point of origin: it's wrought of a single continuous band which, viewed from one angle, has been double-folded, like the outlines of a big tipped-over letter S. I want to call it a variation on the Moebius strip but there aren't any twists and the lines are bars with thickness and volume, not flat planes. From another angle you can see that the band also X-crosses over itself at three evenly dispersed points inside the two big loops. The angles and points line up as straight as if the whole form had been precision-sliced out from a rounded solid (although at the same time you can sort of see that this couldn't have happened), so the overall impression is something like a form that is poised at an impossible moment of possibility: both and neither cut-sculpted and bent-sculpted. It is not the shape of a zygote or an atom, but the abstract idea of some basic, potential thing like that, expressed as form and geometry. Johns's website has a revolving 3-d model of Origin - worth taking a look at.

Origin is big. It's four and three-quarter metres high, five metres wide, and close to eight metres long. It's made of oxidised Corten steel, and up close, its regularity and balance and spatial authority is damned imposing. But only up close. Step away and its cohesion and energy is undone by the big bland eyeless sucking beige monster behind.


Anonymous said...

Oh. My. God. It's am ampersand on steroids.

ThirdCat said...

Do children ever climb on it? I can't quite put my finger on what I mean, but it looks like it should have more children around it.

Is Chadstone the place where they filmed that show Shopping for Love (which even I could only stand to watch twice)?

It really is good to have you back.

ThirdCat said...

What a goose I am! I know why the children are in my mind: there is a Greg Johns sculpture at the beach at the end of the tramline which we visit every ten days or so and children (including mine) are always clambering over it.

Ampersand Duck said...

Yers, it's pretty optimistic to put public art outside a huge shopping mall. Does anybody (besides your good self) actually take a stroll outside the building?

Ivonhur! (brother of Ben)

Zoe said...

It looks like it should have one of those little ashtray stand thingies next to it.


Anonymous said...

One of Johns' sculptures was part of Sculpture by the Sea at Cottesloe this year. That piece also reminds me of the piece outside QV1, a building in Perth (the one Mr Kate works in actually) and which is probably the most visble public sculptures in Perth. Linakge here:
If you scroll down you can see it. When I first moved here someone told me it was inspired by Marilyn Monroe's lips, but it turns out that isn't actually true.


Anonymous said...

Great photos!

I've trundled my bike past it several times on heroic expeditions from St Kilda to Monash, and you are exactly right about the surroundings reducing it to flub.

Good pix to bring it to life again.

- barista

Val said...

One wonders why they even bothered - note total absence of human beings in those photos, mirroring what is found inside Chadstone perhaps? Ah yes, you did mention the word aliens. On the two times I have ventured there, I could feel a heavy dose of alienation zapping me as I walked through the doors. This will be one sculpture I won't be seeking out to view firsthand, but look forward to reading about others you'll feature. Suggestion? The Raoul Wallenberg sculpture in a tiny patch of greenery at Kew Junction?

Anonymous said...

My immediate thought was that it looked like a giant ddog turd.

lucy tartan said...

Hey good suggestion Val. I've driven past the Raoul Wallenberg statue lots of times and will surely pass it again soon.

Elsewhere omg you are right I think - and same with anonymous in the first comment - it also looks a bit like a Mozzie coil, or the ash trail they leave when they've burned right down.

I don't think anyone walks round this side much, unless they're doing the long haul along Dandenong Road as Barista has done.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was the 'at' symbol broken in half and folded back on itself.

I appreciate its symmetry and the 'wholeness' of it.