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Tag Archives: The Age

Footbridge of Masks

In Brunswick there is a pedestrian footbridge that crosses over CityLink Tullamarine Freeway between Peacock Street and McColl Court. The bridge is adorned with 24 cast concrete faces. In 2017 a couple of newspapers reported on it under the headlines: “Brunswick’s creepy bridge – 25 concrete faces, not one nose and no one knows why” and “Creepy concrete faces appear on Brunswick bridge”.

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When I saw it on the news the artist who made the masks was a mystery to me (and I am trying to be an expert in the limited field of Melbourne’s street art sculpture) but one that I didn’t have time until now to investigate. Now that I have it is the paranoid reaction and the lack of any memory in suburbia that are the most disturbing elements.

What caused this paranoid reaction? Was this reaction just because a local graff writer, the prolific tagger Felon had decorated one of the faces, death metal style or was it because of the absence of a plaque to identify the art? I’m not surprised that the noses are all gone, it is the first thing to be damaged on a sculpture and it gives the masks an antique feel.

The propensity for paranoia in suburbia is no reason for alarm. A mystery has to have an element of danger and intrigue or it wouldn’t be mysterious. However, once the facts are revealed it generally turns out to be not that interesting, perhaps even mundane, like a pizza restaurant in Washington DC.

The following day The Age reported that it was the work of Melbourne artist Mary Rogers who “sculpted the 25 life-size faces in her home studio in the mid-1990s as part of the Freeway Bridge Project.”

The work combines architectural decoration on brutalist concrete and was intended to help humanise the freeway overpass. The masks were cast from local residents but, after twenty years, this has not given the bridge any local context or memory. The lack of any urban memory of the bridge speaks of the transitory nature of the urban life.

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The Atlas Intervention

Raymond Gill in the Age (November 13, 2011) asked six curators who they considered to be the top 10 artists who “are continually pushing boundaries, investigating new methods, forging new forms of expression, influencing their peers and shaping the way artists, curators and audiences might look at art in the coming decades?”

CDH "Atlas" November 2011

Gill didn’t ask me who I would include in this list. I don’t mind; I’m one of the least influential people in Melbourne’s art world. But if I had been asked one artist that I certainly would have included is CDH, simply as a way to introduce my second blog post for the year about his art. Normally I don’t write more than one blog post about an artist as there are so many artists, galleries and other events to repeatedly write about one artists. So wanting to write a second blog post this year is an indication of CDH’s significance.

I meet up with CDH for lunch in the city at a burger bar – the day that the Age reported about his “Atlas” intervention.

CDH’s “Atlas” urban intervention with John Robinson’s ‘The Pathfinder’ is a significant work of unauthorized street art. The statue opposite the NGV in the Queen Victoria Gardens has been neglected for twenty years. The repetitive theft of the hammer that simply unscrewed made it impossible to maintain. CDH’s planning and the bravado of the daylight execution, disguised in a bright safety vest, was perfect and the result is an amazing transformation. CDH reverses the theft of the hammer with a replacement.

It was a big risk that might have gone wrong if the globe had been removed a day or so after the intervention. “Street art is generally cheap and is produced in multiples but I invested a lot into this.” CDH told me and then explained the time and money that he’d put into the project. Adding welding to his skill set and improving his angle grinding skills in the process. The globe had to be manufactured in China and imported to Australia. CDH said that he would have liked to have had the globe fabricated locally but could get Australian manufacturing.

How long will CDH’s intervention last? What will the official reaction will be? The tourists wandering around the Queen Victoria Garden today certainly appreciated the intervention. They also told me about the tagging of other sculptures in the garden. The intervention challenges the notion of vandalism because it is gift repair.

”Atlas” was “bestowed up the people of the City of Melbourne by courtesy of Rio Tinto and CDH” (according to the plaque that CDH added). The statue has been renamed “Atlas”, after the titan who carried the world on his shoulders. CDH’s post-modern Atlas swings the world around; the natural world has been unbalanced by the activities of man, including mining giants like Rio Tinto.

CDH, "Pacman: the street art guide game", 2011

CDH has experimented with water-activated paint, with the fire graffiti to paint a portrait of Mishima and next, oxidizing iron filling. He has made interactive street art maps of the city (Pac Man and Logic Deductive Test – my first blog post about CDH). The range of his activities is impressive – he is not from an art school background and does believe that artists should be creative, politically engaged and street.

In the emails before the meeting CDH asked me who my top 10 Melbourne street artists and the 10 international street artists that I would like to see paint in Melbourne. The list of Melbourne street artists was easy (CDH was on that list) but I’m not that interested in the international street art scene – street art is such a mass movement and often anonymous. I thought again about his question – street artists that I would like to see paint in Melbourne. The surviving high school students from Homs who started the current uprising in Syria by painting anti-regime slogans on their high school wall – I would like to see them painting in Melbourne.


Fashion Exhibitions

There is a museum of textiles in Lyon, a museum of fashion in Brussels, in Antwerp there is a gallery of fashion with a very contemporary style, and in Bath another museum of fashion. In Melbourne the National Gallery of Victoria on St. Kilda Road and at Federation Square both have galleries devoted to fashion. They are not a large spaces considering Melbourne’s fashion industry but the NGV does strive to put on a varied program of exciting temporary exhibitions on fashion.

Melbourne also has many fashion and textiles students who regularly exhibit their work, generally at the end of the year exhibitions. I often see exhibitions by RMIT fashion and textiles students, especially at First Site gallery at RMIT. Fashion photography is another way in which fashion enters the art gallery and exhibitions of fashion photography are common – I must see one or two a year without searching them out.

Galleries in Melbourne often have exhibitions where art, jewellery and textiles meet, especially during Melbourne Fashion Festival and Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. Every year both fashion festivals have a program of associated events that takes fashion into the art galleries and exhibitions into fashion boutiques and other venues. There is often has several fashion photography or jewellery exhibitions along with other fashion associated art.

This year the programme of exhibitions associated with the Spring Fashion Week has included exhibitions at the NGV and State Library. There is an exhibition by The Age, “The Age of Fashion” in the square at the QV centre featuring fashion photographs from The Age’s archives and 5 mannequins displaying designer labels. It is an elaborate temporary exhibition made up of plinths, vitrines and platforms. On a different scale of exhibition and funding are the exhibitions: “Sue Barnes Studio” and “Black: an Exhibition”. “Sue Barnes Studio” is a small display of 8 photographs of fashion images, advertising and logos on the street at the Journal Bar viewing space, a vitrine near the café’s door. “Black: an exhibition” is contemporary all black jewellery by Vikki Kassioras and black ink drawings by Katherine Bowman. The temporary cardboard gallery space created for the exhibition in the Nicholas Building was elegant and functional. (See Melbourne Jeweler for a review of Black: an exhibition).

Considering all of these temporary exhibitions and temporary exhibitions spaces, the regular fashion exhibitions in Melbourne both at the annual fashion festival and during the rest of the year, it appears that Melbourne needs its own gallery of fashion and textiles with room for both permanent and temporary exhibition a gallery devoted to fashion. This would bring Melbourne in to step with other fashion capitals and add to the city’s cultural attractions.


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