Campbell Arcade Art Show

The Campbell Arcade, the strange but beautiful little pink tiled throat that links the Desgraves Street entrance to Flinders Street Station, is likely to be modified to make way from the Metro Tunnel though its not clear how much.  Will it remain a refuge for arty types when it is turned into a tunnel linking to the new town hall station or will it be freshened and modernized out of existence?

Till then the Vitrines will continue displaying art.  I really enjoyed Heroines in Petticoats, one of the best displays I’ve seen for a while.

Check it out.

Here is a review by Melbourne Art Critic Mark Holsworth

Heroines Petticoats @ Dirty Dozen

A dozen surreal installations tell a history of Australian women. “Heroines in Petticoats” by Kelly Sullivan, Kirsti Lenthall (Empire of Stuff), Gigi Gordes and Liz Sonntag (Tinky) is an engaging and accessible exhibition that has a coherent and relevant theme.

The height and depth of the dozen vitrines in the pink tiled Campbell Arcade, the Degraves Street underpass to Flinders Street Station has been used to great effect. Too often the Dirty Dozen has been occupied by art students who have alienated the general public, forgetting or ignoring that this space is very public at Melbourne’s central metropolitan railway station. There were several people paying close attention to it when I saw it around midday on Thursday.

The vitrines create a timeline of the lives of Australian women from the colonial era to the present. The heroines of this timeline are not specific women, heroines to represent an era but women in a general non-specific way. This absence of specificity meant that the artists tended to represent white suburban women.

As well as, the timeline there were specific causes associated with specific eras from the anti-conscription movement of the 1910s to the domestic murder rate of today. There was no mention of the temperance movement, as it was a women powered movement, but it is not longer seen as righteous.

Although each of the cases is labelled as the work of specific artists there is a coherent look to the whole exhibition. There are differences Kelly Sullivan’s collage, Kirsti Lenthall’s ceramic decals on plates and impressively on quartz rocks, or Gigi Gordes’s disembodied body parts; hands typing, the eyes on the glasses, mouth on the mug, mouth on the phone (I don’t know why the objects are covered in crochet) and, a few cabinets later, the hands on a glass of wine.

It was Tinky’s work that drew my attention to the exhibition as I know Gigi and Tinky’s art from the street. However, Tinky’s puns were the weakest elements of the exhibition. Written on paper and the little titles didn’t match the style of the rest. Unfortunately her puns give meaning to her tableaus and without them they would just be some odd HO scale model train figures.

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne.

Wow!

Sandy and a seriously thrilled Jane

Here is the wonderful Sandy from Geelong, costumier extraordinaire, dressed up as Yanimina Tari, The War Raven, one of the main characters in The Three Sisters and The Melded Child. How cool is that! You know you must be doing something right when someone cosplays one of your characters at Supanova.
Thank you so much Sandy. You made my week.
I’d love to acquire the costume when you’re finished with it.

 

On men at work

On Men at Work

It’s late one Sunday night.  Workmen are replacing the wooden sleepers with concrete ones on the tracks at the Junction.  Since the trains cannot run, I’ve been rostered on to put people onto buses. An Eminem concert, a Japanese festival and the Caravan and Camping show have combined to make the day very busy.

But later as the night comes down and the lights turn everything softly golden and shadowy, the crowds clear and there is time to stop and watch the men working.

The sight has a strange beauty. Machines advance and retreat, lifting rails or dropping or tamping ballast and their human attendants follow them with the elegant precision of a dance number.  There are no whistles or yells, not even much talk, just the love roar of machinery and the rhythmic clanking of steel on stone.  The men have done this a thousand times all over the system and everyone knows his job.  One gang waits at ease while another moves in step tightening rivets with sledge hammers and special hooks.  Here and there small groups huddle secretively over wielding rigs.  Watching these big beefy guys falling in behind the huge machines reminds me of watching the infantry fall in behind the tanks in old war movies or the Guild of Navigators in David movie of Dune.

By the time morning comes it will as if no one has been there except that the wooden sleepers have now turned as if by magic to concrete.    And very probably none of the day commuters will even notice they’ve been there.

 

10.55 to the Junction

 

After two decades of wishing I could swim in the sea more often and 10 years of working out of the Junction, I finally clued to the fact that there’s a beach 20 minutes train ride from there.  Doh!

An organizational task which seemed at first overwhelming, checking train-time tables, packing uniform and bathers and towels, proved on closer inspection to be perfectly doable.

All my life I’ve assumed a visit to the beach must begin with a hot hour (s) long drive to the beach, a heavy hike across dunes from the car park and a day spent rubbing sandy sun screen into boiling skin in the inadequate shade of an unstable umbrella.

But all through this long hot summer, I’ve taken the 8.47 to BeachTown and spent an hour bobbing round in the crystal green ocean, peering at fish and sea lettuce through my goggles and getting well and truly chilled to the bone.  Sometimes a friend comes too so much talking gets done.

A quick rinse off and maybe a muffin and a cuppa at the kiosk and its back on the 10.55 to the Junction in time for work. A low carbon treat that has the added pleasure of sounding like I’m in a novel by Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle or Enid Blyton.  (hopefully without the murder)

 

 

Another reality

Last week I entered the mysterious world of Hanson fans. Two middle-aged women fans met in the waiting room and with the shining faces of true believers were talking of their love for the band while waiting for the train. That was how I learnt (1) that Hanson the band (MMMBop – yes that Hanson) were still playing after 25 years and (2) that they were playing two sell out gigs at the Zoo after playing a sellout gig at the St Kilda Palais.
“I’m going to all their shows and next week I’m following them to Sydney to see all their shows there,” says the middle-aged woman in the brown floral dress.
“Me too,” says the other one, a tall woman in a tight leaf-pattern sheath. “They’re so good to their fans, every year they hire out at a resort in Jamaica where you can spend a week with them.”
“Is it a competition or do you pay to go?” I ask.
“Oh I paid. Last year I went. It was awesome”.
“You went!” cries brown floral dress. “You lucky thing.”
“They appeal to everyone” says leafy dress. “I took my daughter to the gig at the Palais.”
“I took my mother,” says brown floral dress.
“And do they still look as wonderful as they did back in the nineties?” I ask thinking of the bands I used to follow and how they have aged.
“They look better,” says brown floral dress. “My mother took one look at the drummer and said, “You have no business being so pretty.””
There are so many other realities out there and when you brush against them and try to imagine living in them the world gets bigger and stranger.

Hot Velvet Night in Queenscliff

A four carriage train with a blues singer/band in every carriage? How great is that! And it was too. We arrived at 6.30 and were served a delicious meal of salads and slow cooked meats on the quaint little Queenscliff railways station. After a day of 36 degrees, it was fabulous to enjoy the cool sea breeze and watch the sun going down over a golden inlet covered with flocks of swans and pelicans. As darkness fell we boarded the train and set off towards Drysdale. At every stop we changed carriages so that by nights end we’d all seen four gigs. And very excellent gigs they were too. Dancing was not easy in a moving carriage but it was impossible not to tap your feet and claps your hands. We warmed up with International Blues Challengers, Rhythm X Revival, got really revved up by Japanese blues man, George Kamikawa, (Kampai!) chilled to the orginal songs of Wayne Jury and got dancing again to Tiana Martel’s powerful voice. The blues, the train and the hot velvet night – maybe we really were in the Mississippi Delta.

You can’t buy drinks on the train but you can get them (and an ice bucket to carry them around in) at the station. And an ice cream at Drysdale. Now that’s living!
Many thanks to Hugo Armstrong of the Blues Train for the complementary tickets.

The Blues Train Homepage

A young man’s dream

A young man in a yellow high-vis vest gets off the 4.04 and hovers by the front door peering down the platform. I look at him enquiringly and he nods back at me in a friendly way. But he stays where he is, hovering. Just as I’m starting to wonder what his deal is, the platform clears. He turns, puts his fingers in his mouth, lets out a piercing whistle and jumps back in the train.
Apparently our suburban train service has acquired an unofficial conductor who’s whistling at every stop.
I ask my workmates if they’ve seen him and they’ve all had some brush with him.
“The train driver can’t see through him,” says one. “So I told him to get lost!”
Secretly, I hope to see him again.

Train Conductors Hat from Walmart

The kindness of strangers

Sign found in Coburg Station waiting room.

The middle aged man with the beard and the big coat clearly wanted to chat, but I was at the exciting part of my book and had been looking forward to using the train journey to read it. So I replied politely and then disengaged, firmly gluing my gaze to the page
Further down the line, the man got lucky. I was so enthralled with the conversation I stopped reading.
A young bloke with a skateboard got in and the man started a conversation about his neck chains which moved rapidly onto talking about homelessness.
“I lost my f… house, my daughter, my wife two months ago.”
“How are you finding it?”
“F… freezing last night. Terrible.”
“Yeah I know what it’s like. I was homeless for 12 months after my f… step dad kicked me out. Almost died of f… hypothermia a coupla times.”
“Yeah! F… hard to find somewhere dry.”
“Did you know where you can get a free feed every weekend?”
They slipped into talking of ways and means.
Then coming into the junction, the young bloke said,
“I found a place and I’ve been there almost a year. We got two spare couches in the living room. Here, why don’t you take my address and phone number, just come round tonight and we’ll put you up.”
The middle aged man was touched and I, eavesdropping, got a lovely warm feeling in my chest.
“You sure?”
“Yeah, yeah! Just show up tonight. I know what it’s like.
“That’s pretty f… great of you.”
My heart was lifted by this conversation yet at the same time I was fearful. What if someone was hurt? What if someone was assaulted or taken advantage of? I was brought up to distrust the kindness of strangers which is sad. But also wise.
But homelessness cuts down your choices