Saturday, 5 May 2018

727 Collins St

I'd arranged to do some work together with the education researcher so after work last night I rode down to the strange end of Melbourne to meet her at Deakin's city place. Traffic down Collins St was unbelievably bad and it felt dangerous to be on the road. I got on the
footpath to go round one extra bad bit and I happened to be near a flower stall so just like in the olden days ads for deodorant, I impulse-bought a fragrant bunch of narcissus to give my collaborator. I'd already realised this was a weirdo gesture before the seller finished wrapping them, and then he stood there for too long holding onto them while asking me a string of increasingly creepy questions.

So by the time I crossed Spencer St and got to my destination, a great big new office complex just over the hump of a hill between The Age building and Southern Cross, just beyond the very very strange and bluntly symbolic steel sawtooth tyre trap things someone's embedded in the street there, I was kinda stirred up. I guess this might be why I felt like I'd been, I don't know, grabbed around the throat or something by the building. Sure, buildings make people act and feel in certain ways but the manipulation is usually a little more subtle than this, or at least it's more subtle in buildings not expressly devoted to discipline 'n' punish type purposes. Is it at all plausible if I say that this one acted like a psychotropic drug on my system? As soon as I got into the ground level foyer, I reckon, I started to lose my shit.

First reaction, sadly, perhaps, was to pull my phone out of my pocket and start photographing everything. This foyer! All this clean and cleancut stuff, all these armchairs and couches and lamps and coffee tables, all this stone, all this glass and steel and double height space, all balefully surveilled from the back by a giant bloodshot John Olsen eyeball floating in a tank of piss by Andres Serrano.

On each marble 'coffee' table there is a little steel sign that says you can't put food or drink on it, and also there is a huge Phaidon Press art book. This one is about Missoni

I gather there's a show on at ACMI at the moment about Alice in Wonderland which features an immersive environment of some kind. I've seen social media pictures of what appear to be very literally-mindedly staged Wonderland spaces, ie there's nightclub-style fluoro lighting and a black table studded with luminous, disproportionately large and small teacups and plates and fob watches etc etc. It looks kind of yawnworthy. But this foyer gave me a real Alice in Wonderland set of sensations. It made me feel like there was something warped about the scale of my body in the room. I didn't know what size I was, or whether I was in a big place or a small place. I was walking in and everyone else was walking out. I also felt a surging desire to do something criminal - to sit on the chairs, as if they weren't there for me to sit on, or to open the books, maybe to steal them. I certainly thought Why don't these books get stolen, and why aren't there people sitting illicitly all over these chairs and couches? I didn't really want to read the books, steal them, or even sit on the couches all that much, but I did very much want to take something more from the space than what it had already allotted as my portion.

Even now, at home, in my warm nest of a bed, where I've been dozing, drinking gin, intermittently dreaming, weeping a bit, messaging my friends, reading, and writing for several hours now, even now a whole day later, I want to go there and sit again on the chairs that so much appear to have been placed there for some other purpose than for me to sit on them

I did open this book for a moment, and got about five pages in before I couldn't cope with the conflicting emotions any longer

Scale, repetition, and such boredom - it takes a rare and special talent to make a city seem boring

I crossed the foyer to the lifts and this whole other level of irreality kicked in. I'd been warned in advance of the visit that the lifts were weird, but even so. The black thing that man is looking at is a touchscreen and you do what it tells you on the screen, then a light flashes on one of the lifts and you get in it. THERE ARE NO BUTTONS IN THE LIFT ONLY GLITTERING DEPTHLESS MIRRORS ON ALL FOUR SIDES. It delivers you directly to the floor you requested. Some floors you need an access card to get to, unless you get in the wrong lift because you're afraid and confused. 

If you get in the wrong lift it dumps you at the wrong floor, into a corridor which looks very like the pictures I've seen of Callum Morton's legendary work Valhalla (which has recently been installed at McLelland Sculpture Park and which I am determined to drive out and see, soon, on an appropriately dismal Melbourne winter's day, with luck)

This floor will be where Mars confectionery's office is but you can't go in there you can only see it through a locked door. BELONGING. The lift will take you back to the foyer (called the 'Skydeck') when you figure this out, and you can start again. You can go to other wrong floors on purpose if you want and have a look at the offices of insurance and finance companies and that's really weird too, and you will feel like you're doing something very much forbidden while at the same time understanding that in fact this up-and-down-and-round-and-round you're doing is a course that the building's mastermind has granted permission for you to follow.

When I finally made my way to the Deakin level I was more or less prepared for the kind of business-time opulence on display there, it still freaked me out though and I still felt like an intruder and compelled to try to take advantage somehow, of all this conspicuous wealth. 
Deakin corridor of whistling, dreary alienation

 The couches, the black velvet couches, am I allowed to sit on the couches? With nobody visibly gatekeeping I felt myself becoming my own policeman, sternly looking to make sure I didn't do anything wrong in here, at the same time as I really didn't even want a gross Nespresso coffee out of the machine. 

After we did our work and I left, I felt smacked about all over again by that freaky foyer. On the way out I noticed these people sitting round a table in an adjacent bar, and I remembered when I was an art student and I had $110 a week to live upon, once on the Collins St tram I looked at how clean the men and women were in their black and navy business attire and I thought, I will never be as clean as that and what's more, I will never speak to, be friends with, or touch anyone who is that clean

That woman with the watermelon backpack is asleep

The building out the window made me feel sick when I realised what I was looking at, some sort of goods shed I guess, probably why Docklands is called Docklands. How's the authenticity? I suppose you can't see it, but Bunjil's head is peering over the top of the roof, in a gap in the skyline

siiit onnn uuuusss....noooobody's waaaatching

Le Corbusier cosplay

Be disgorged out through the revolving doors, and there's a bar right there, it's so convenient!

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