Tag Archives: Bendigo

Commissioner of Sewers

When I was in high school at Bendigo Senior High I was always amused to see in Rosalind Park a brick memorial drinking fountain to the founder of Bendigo’s sewerage. I never drank from it as the drinking fountain parts did not function for many years although it has recently been restored. I was also unaware, at the time that I lived in Bendigo, that it was the work of Ola Cohn, not that I would have cared at the time if I had known.

Ola Cohn, detail of Curnow Memorial drinking fountain

Ola Cohn, detail of Curnow Memorial drinking fountain

One of the reasons why Ola Cohn received this particular commission was that she was born in Bendigo. By the time she received the Curnow Memorial she had already exhibited and work for Paul Montford, studied with Henry Moore in England and returned to Australia. The Curnow drinking fountain was another commission and it hardly rates a mention in her biography.

Ola Cohn describes the commission:

“I was to design a tribute to the late Cr. J.H. Curnow, a prominent city councillor in Bendigo who had been five times Mayor and had campaigned for proper sewerage for the city. I chose clay as a medium and designed a drinking fountain build of tapestry bricks, with inserted panels of red terracotta. It was placed in Rosalind Park, Bendigo, and looked very well against the green trees.” A Way With The Fairies – The Lost Story of Sculptor Ola Cohn edited by Barbara Lemon (R. W. Stugnell, 2014, Melbourne p.95)

Set into the brick fountain there are four bronze bas-relief panels. There is a boy and girl at either ends, strangely suggesting a segregation of  sexes for the two drinking fountains. In the middle, in his mayoral robes and chains the bespectacled bald man, a post humous portrait of Mayor J. H. Curnow, along with the text: “Public Memorial to James H. Curnow JP, Mayor of Bendigo 1902-04, 1912-13, 1919-20, 1927-28 Founder of Bendigo’s Sewerage”.

Ola Cohn, fountain DSC09958

Yes, the commissioner of sewers, sewerage is an important issue for any civilisation and there aren’t enough memorials about such civic infrastructure but a drinking fountain to the commissioner of sewers, seriously, didn’t someone think that one through or was the nature of irony somehow different at the beginning of the twentieth century? However, I hope that some of my readers have thought beyond the toilet humour and realised that Bendigo did not have a sewerage system until the twentieth century. This is a typical Australian response to basic infrastructure, delay building it for a long as possible; Melbourne had a telephone system before a sewerage system. (Seriously read William Burroughs on becoming the Commissioner of Sewers as it is a wonderful text on political power, the text is reproduced on Toilet Guru).

Ola Cohn


Couture Exhibitions

2009 Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program part 1

By Mark Holsworth and Catherine Voutier

The blockbuster exhibition of the Melbourne Fashion Festival was out of Melbourne at the Bendigo Art Gallery. There has been an average of 2 thousand visitors daily and a long wait in the queue to gain entry. The gallery’s staff and facilities couldn’t cope with the avalanche of people and Bendigo is experiencing a boom in tourists.

This was all for The Golden Age of Couture – Paris & London 1947-57 that featured dresses from Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga. Other items included tiny travelling mannequins about 40cm tall that the French couturiers would bring over to England to display to clients. There were some fascinating British & French films from the period including one showing a model being dressed in the extensive underdress that the New Look form required (corseting, girdles, padded bras, extra padding attached to hips and shoulders). The films also revealed more men attending shows than would be the case today – the men at this time were the ones buying the clothes for their wives. There were also photographs by Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon and Erwin Bloomfield. Bloomfield’s free Dadaist experiments in photography were not always successful but always adventurous and ambitious. Previously, fashion photographs were taken in studios. With the New Look, models were photographed in the real world showing the clothes as they would be worn in everyday situations.

The National Gallery of Victoria’s exhibition Remaking Fashion deconstructs the process of making fashion. And even in a modest way the way of exhibiting fashion had been deconstructed with the raw wood back frame. A series of Christian Dior toile versions of dress designs showed the structural basics and introduced the rest of the exhibition. This included Westwood’s experiments with traditions updating them to contemporary life, dresses and a slashed jacket by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, and an impressive women’s dress remade from men’s garments by local fashion label SiX.

Fashion boutique Marais, located on the 1st floor of Royal Arcade, had a small exhibition of the work of designer Annie Valerie Hash. There were lots of beading and others quirky details. Some of Annie Valerie Hash’s dresses showed the distinct influence of Coco Channel. And on the 2nd floor of Royal Arcade, Don’t Come has cool street clothes and a one room gallery with Drella New York, photographs by Maripolarama. These are mosaics of enlarged snapshot-style photographs of the cool glamorous of NYC. Look there is Andy Warhol eating with Keith Haring, And there’s Madonna, Grace Jones, and hey, there’s Jeff Koons! But this isn’t couture anymore this is street d.i.y. fashion; the subject of our next entry on the 2009 Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program.


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