Tag Archives: Federation Square

Federation Square & the Melbourne Prize

There is plenty to see and do in Federation Square; someone could probably write a blog and post nothing except all the stuff happening at Federation Square. There is a lot happening all the time both officially and unofficially: music, art, dance, food, videos and that is just what is happening outside.

Pop up Garden

I visited the Pop-up Patch, a vegetable garden in the middle of Melbourne in part of the disused carpark at the end of the Federation Square. There are patches used by restaurants and other people, including a planting of hops by Little Creatures brewery. It is a great little vegetable garden overlooking the Yarra River.

DSCF0364

I normally don’t write many blog posts about Federation Square, I spend more time on Sydney Road, Gertrude Street or Hosier Lane. This is more a case of overrated (and consequently over-reported) and underrated rather than an idea of an authentic Melbourne location. This week I have been exploring Federation Square, walking around looking at the finalists work in the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2014. (See my post Installing Ursa Major.)

The six finalists for the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture have work installed in Federation Square but don’t expect to see things of bronze, wood or stone on plinths. Juliana Engberg, Artistic Director of ACCA, said that the sculpture prize “reflects a shift in thinking, a long way from plonk space.” Another one of the prize judges, the sculptor Callum Morton, pointed out that the sculpture can be “propositional, monumental, performance based”.

Geoff Robinson, 15 locations/15 minutes/15 days

Geoff Robinson, 15 locations/15 minutes/15 days

Geoff Robinson was very happy to win Melbourne Prize; the $60,000 cash prize would make most artists very happy. His work 15 locations/15 minutes/15 days is a sonic sculptural event using the space and time of Federation Square. Robinson thanked the hundreds of volunteers who are ringing federation handbells, courtesy of Museum Victoria at the 15 locations each marked with a multi-coloured pole.

On the subject of sonic sculptural work, I have to mention the exhibition of The Instrument Builders Project (IBP) at NGV Studio. I love exhibitions of musical instruments, especially when I can use some of the instruments. IBP is an experimental collaborative project between Australian and Indonesian artists and musicians. It is also fantastic fun, with plenty of instruments that you could play on. Pedal power synthesisers, combinations between strings and percussions, foot pumped horns running on air power. Music as installations driving water and lights. There is a beauty in both the sculptural form of musical instruments along with the awareness of sonic potential in the object.

Back to the Melbourne Prize awards…

Kay Abude was completely surprised to win the $10,000 Professional Development Award. She had just been working in the Atrium, casting plaster ingots and painting them gold, before the Award presentation and was still wearing her work shirt and shorts. She didn’t think that she would win and hadn’t invited her parents.

Kay Abude, Piecework

Kay Abude, Piecework

Aleks Danko was the recipient of the Rural and Regional Development Award.

As I was leaving Federation Square on Thursday evening I saw a woman with a red plastic typewriter and a sign: “Free a Letter” sitting on the plastic grass. She was offering to type what you want to say. I wished that I could have found out more but I wanted to catch the 7:41 Upfield train and couldn’t hang around for another twenty minutes.

As I wrote at the start, there is plenty to see and do in Federation Square.


Installing Ursa Major

I was a bit too early on Monday morning for the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2014 as some of the sculptures had not yet arrived. The information stands were up and installation was underway but for a while the only thing that I could of the finalist’s sculptures were Geoff Robinson’s coloured poles (“spatial markers”) that are part of his work, 15 locations/15 minutes/15 days. Then I saw parked on the Russell Street part of the square, where the tour buses pick up passengers a polar bear on the back of the truck and the name of business: J K Fasham Pty Ltd.

Louise Paramor Ursa Major

J K Fasham Pty Ltd in Clayton South is a firm that specialises in architectural metal fabrication, mostly windows and doors. They have also fabricated and installed sculptures for over four decades and have done work on public sculptures for Inge King, Anthony Pryor and Deborah Helpburn. Moving a large sculpture is an expensive operation it itself and can be a major item in the budget for a sculpture.

The polar bear was the most recognisable object in Louise Paramor’s Ursa Major, 2014, another one of the finalists in the Melbourne Prize. The sculpture is an assembly of unlikely objects, a chance encounter of the surreal kind in the warehouse that allows “industry, novelty and domesticity to collide”. The bear is seated on a stack of palettes, with a table balanced on its head and a slide on his back.

Considering the size of the plastic and fibreglass sculpture of the polar bear and objects and compared to some of the other sculptures that they have installed this was not going to be a demanding job. However, it was worth watching to observe a professional installation of a temporary public sculpture.

Louise Paramor Ursa Major unloading

The sculpture is installed in a little used part of Federation Square at the back of the Atrium overlooking the Yarra River. It was a precision operation carried out with care, attention to detail and professional experience. The sculpture was attached to the concrete base with long steel bolts.

It was installed by two men, a truck with a crane, a pallet jack and another small crane. The second crane was a fantastic little piece of machinery, with retractable bracing legs that lifted the single track vehicle off the ground. It was perfect for the small pedestrian space.

Installing Louise Paramor Ursa Major

Louise Paramor Ursa Major Fed Square

Everything went smoothly. Louise Paramor, the artist was watching and photographing the process.

“We can still move it, if you want.” I heard one of the men say to Louise.

In the end the biggest problem was where to put the laminated “Do Not Climb” sign and how to attach it. It was a problem for the artist and Melbourne Prize organiser, Simon Warrender; the two men from J K Fasham Pty Ltd were packing up the small crane and moving it back to their truck.

Louise Paramor Ursa Major installation finished

Louise Paramor with her Ursa Major

Louise Paramor with her Ursa Major


Of Wool & Slow Art

“I’m hopping that the sheep like the show.” Dylan Martorell told me.

Chaco Kato and Dylan Martorell, from the Slow Art Collective (SAC) have made a gateway for the Wool Week exhibition in the Atrium at Federation Square. A simple but impressive tent of red, orange, yellow and white woollen yarns, held down by eight giant balls of wool, framing the small exhibit of wool in fashion and furnishings. I was amazed that Kato and Martorell were able to pull off such a large elegant work that fitted beautifully with the Atrium’s architecture as often their art tends towards the chaotic.

Wool Week 2014 at Federation Square

Wool Week 2014 at Federation Square

Chaco Kato and Dylan Martorell are part of the Slow Art Collective (SAC) which has been around since 2009. The Slow Art Collective is not a fixed group, its members come and go. It continues to explore ideas around slow art and to challenge the conventional fast cultural exchange. Asking for a deeper reading rather than more.

The slow art is related to the slow food and the slow city movement in that it slows the pace down. Slow art involves bring what you are using in your life into art. If you buy materials they have to be re-used. Most importantly slow art is about slow exchanges of value rather than the fast, monetary exchange of value. It is about the slow absorption of culture through community links by creating something together an blurring the boundary between the artists and viewer. It is a sustainable arts practice, not an extreme solution; a reasonable alternative to deal with real problems in contemporary art practice.

Ironically some of the slow art is created very fast, spontaneous improvisation with humble materials and simple techniques. They have been very prolific in the last five years, only last Sunday I was listening Dylan Martorell audio art in the current exhibition at the Counihan Gallery. Visitors to the Melbourne Now at the NGV might have paused, as my brother and I did, in the SAC’s environmental installation, Marlarky made of recycled materials. Many of the SAC’s installations show an interest in functional architecture – their bamboo poles get used again and again.

A fortnight before I went to see Dylan Martorell and Chaco Kato at their Brunswick studio. I wanted to meet them after seeing their work for the last five years. They were busy working on one of the long bamboo poles, that have been used in many of their exhibitions.

Slow Art Collective at work

Slow Art Collective at work

There were boxes of wool in their studio to be assembled. The work is sponsored by Woolmark Company with a campaign slogan of “live naturally, choose wool”. The company and the campaign appears to be perfect fit for the SAC. After the Wool Week exhibition is finished the wool will be donated to the Knitting Group at Federation Square. In keeping with the idea of slow art the wool will continue to be used and reused.

SAC were attaching bundles of wool ready to be unrolled. They opened up the black plastic wrapping of one that they had prepared earlier, a great seed pods of wool, ready to spring out when installed. But it was impossible to imagine what the finished work would look.

The Wool Week exhibition at Federation Square also features three pens of sheep (rams, lambs and ewes). The sheep appeared to have no opinion of the products of their fleece but ewes were keeping a keen eye on the rams and the many people walking past.

Sheep at Federation Square

Sheep at Federation Square


Keep Hosier Real

Approximately 2000 people visit Hosier Lane every weekend, even on a cold, rainy Sunday in May. On this particular cold, rainy Sunday there were more than the usual number of people in Hosier Lane. People had to squeeze through the crowd that had gathered to rally in protest at a proposed multi-story hotel development in the aerosol paint covered lane.

Bride keeping Hosier Real

If you think that the lesson of the story about the goose that laid the golden egg couldn’t be more obvious, then you are seriously under-estimate the capacity of humans to be both greedy and stupid. The current proposed redevelopment of the old MTC/Chinese theatre site on Russell Street, that backs onto Hosier Lane into a multi-story hotel is not just an inappropriate development, it is a greedy and stupid.

Inner city Melbourne’s rejuvenation, the result of decades of planning, creating an event and spectacle based city brings people into the city. This in turn created a market for restaurants, shops and hotels – hotels, that would include the proposed multi story development.

Now a reasonable person would think that it would be in the interest of a development next to one of Melbourne’s major tourist attractions to be designed appropriately for its location but this would, again, under-estimate the capacity of humans to be both stupid and greedy.

I am not against development; I am not like Jeff Sparrow in Radical Melbourne moaning that the Melbourne’s Communist Party Headquarters, at 3 Hosier Lane from 1936 to 1939, is now occupied by a restaurant. What is needed is development that is appropriate to the location, that doesn’t simply occupy the space, that doesn’t simply take things away from the place without giving something back to the area.

Professor Roz Hansen, chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee for the Melbourne Metropolitan Strategy points that the development doesn’t just threaten the tourist value the street art and graffiti in Hosier Lane it also threatens to overshadow the ‘Winter Garden’ in Federation Square.

This new development will also impact on the Babylonian-revival style Forum Theatre – the proposal admits it has no plans regarding the known vibrations from this live music venue. No doubt after it is constructed they will make a complaint and attempt to shut down the venue?

This is not to forget that Hosier Lane is distinctly different to the designed attraction of Federation Square or even the heritage listing of the Forum Theatre. The development also threatens services to the homeless that are provided by the Livingroom and Youth Projects in Hosier Lane. As well as, the pedestrian zone that the lane way has become.

Adam Bandt Keep Hosier Real

Describing these developers as “the real vandals” as Adam Bandt, Federal Member for Melbourne, did at the rally today is being too poetic and too kind. Perhaps I am being too kind in simply describing them as stupid and greedy.

There is an online petition and it is interesting to see that people are signing it from Brazil, Croatia, India, Italy and the USA, indicating that this is not simply a local issue.


Worst of Fed Square

“Paparazzi Dogs” was specially commissioned and made for Federation Square. It was intended as a backdrop for more selfies (photos of yourself). “Visitors can go there to take their own photos with the paparazzi, allowing them to become their own celebrity.” (Gillie and Marc’s website.) Do tourists really measure their enjoyment of a place in photos? Is a photo opportunity the best function for a public sculpture?

Gilles and Marc, Paparazzi Dogs, 2013, photo by CDH

Gillie and Marc, Paparazzi Dogs, 2013, photo by CDH

The street artist CDH subverted “Paparazzi Dogs” by replacing the plaque with his own notice using the same layout and font as the official Federation Square notices. (See his website under reviews.) CDH’s notice read:

“The sculpture equivalent of ‘dogs playing poker’, the work is symbolic of the culturally vapid public art commissioned by Melbourne’s civic institutions. / The dog/human mutations in suits reference the base and deficient character of a bureaucracy as a system of selecting art. / The cameras pointing outward invite the viewer to go into Melbourne’s laneways in search of the authentic and organic street art culture that the city is internationally renowned for.”

Instead of committing to a single image for Federation Square it keeps on changing with temporary sculpture. Instead of committing to a single public sculpture when tastes will change in another decade or two Federation Square has decided to have a series of temporary sculpture exhibitions. Now this might be a good strategy and some of these sculptures have been good, like Theo Jansen’s “Strandbeest” in 2012, but recently the sculptures have been kitsch, like Gillie and Marc’s “Paparazzi Dogs” or Xu Hongfei’s “Chubby Women” sculptures.

Xu Hongfei series of fat women sculptures is currently in Federation Square. Xu Hongfei is the president of the Guangzhou Academy of Sculpture and the Chinese government sponsors his sculpture tour of Australia. His “Chubby Woman” series was exhibited earlier this year in Sydney and at the National Art Museum of China. In this case the bureaucracy of selecting sculpture for Federation Square has gone for diplomacy over taste.

As Xu Hongfei said about his sculptures on Radio Australia: “Many people enjoy this type of artwork very much, it’s very direct, not very deep nor complicated.” (Girish Sawlani, “Chinese sculptor brings ‘Chubby women’ exhibition to Australia”, Radio Australia 16/7/2013)

Deep and complicated do not preclude being enjoyable to many people. Theo Jansen’s walking machines was fascinating to all ages. And Jansen’s work can lead to deep and complicated thinking about kinetic art, engineering, wind power and biology as well as being enjoyable aesthetic experience. Xu Hongfei’s work leads to nothing but more selfies, BBW sculpture porn and filling Federation Square.

Kitsch functions as a cultural gap-filler, ersatzes culture filling the spaces instead of work that might lead to thought. In filling the gap it excludes better work.

 


Monsters, Divers and More on the Street

Walking around Melbourne on Thursday I saw a variety of art on the streets from street art to public art, along with some art in an art gallery that referred to the street.

In Federation Square Theo Jansen’s “Strandbeest” were walking around delighting young and old. The two walking machines made of PVC pipes held together with cable ties are a combination of art and mechanical engineering. Although the larger one is meant to wind powered, that was in short supply on Thursday and pneumatic power was being used instead.

Another, and in my opinion the best yet, tribute to the destroyed Banksy’s Little Diver has been placed in Cocker Alley where the Banksy once was. This is stencil piece contains many references to Melbourne street art including Ha-Ha’s Ned Kelly, Phib’s hand with an eye, Hugh Dunnit’s Pinocchico, and the infamous CTCV capping.

I spotted a couple more of Steaphan Paton’s Urban Doolagahls prowling around the laneways and drinking coffee. (For more on Steaphan Paton’s “Urban Doolagahl” see my recent post: An aboriginal art walk.)

There were fashion shoots in both Duckboard Place and AC/DC Lane; given the use that Melbourne’s fashion industry (along with the wedding industry) makes of Melbourne’s graffiti covered lanes it makes me wonder if they are doing anything to support the street art scene or if they are just exploiting it. I assume that Melbourne City Council charges for the right to close down the lane for a photo shoot (more exploitation of street art).

Further up Flinders Lane I saw Pamela See’s exhibition “White Wash” at fortyfivedownstairs. “White Wash” refers to buffing in Beijing and Brisbane. Brisbane based artist, Pamela See has made paper cuts and cut stainless steel versions of the white brush marks used to cover up unauthorized material on the street. The paper cuts of the brush marks complete with cut paper drips reminded me of Roy Lichtenstein’s enlarged abstract expressionist brush strokes.


Urban Sculpture @ Fed Square

Today I went to see the exhibition of six finalists for Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2011 in Federation Square. I looked at the sculptures and observed how the public was reacting and interacting with the sculptures.

The exhibition contrasted the obvious and constant sculptures and the intermittent and obscure sculptures. “The aim of the 2011 Prize is to focus on the urban environment and importance of sculptural practice, in its all its forms, and its role of informing and enriching public life and civic space.” How does the obscure inform or enrich public life? And how does an intermittent sculpture enrich a public space?

Greener & Maddock, "Apostle No.2", 2011

Isaac Greener and Lucas Maddock’s “Apostle No.2” is a reinforced polyester resin version of the original natural tourist icon that collapsed in 2005. People still pose for photographs with this smaller, semi-transparent version, as they did with the original monolith, but this time they can touch it.

Hester, "a world, fully accessible by no living being", 2011

Bianca Hester, “a world fully accessible by no living being”. Although this sculpture is the winner of the Melbourne Prize the public were ignoring it; a man lights his cigarette in the shelter of the breezeblock wall and Xavier College students sit with their backs to the wall as they are lectured about the cathedral’s architecture. I didn’t see anyone else take the tabloid of proposals/propositions, stacked in a hole in the wall. The grey breezeblocks merged with the grey stone of the square.

Leber & Chesworth, "We, The Masters", 2011

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth “We, The Masters” (vinyl, 2 channel audio, speakers etc.) was only partially there. I saw the small vinyl banners text in the trees but in the text filled environment of Federation Square they made less of impact anymore than the other signs and advertising logos. I tried to hear if there was any sound coming out of one of the many speakers but I didn’t hear anything; I leaned so close that I bumped my head against the speaker – definitely no sounds were coming from them.

Murray-White "Sara Delaney - a head of her time", 2010

Clive Murray-White “Sara Delaney – a head of her time” is the most traditional sculpture in the exhibition; a face made of Chillagoe marble with a plinth of granite and galvanized steel. It was attracting some attention from other people in Federation Square; I had to wait for the cyclist to finish looking at it before I could photograph it.

Stuart Ringholt & Mark Holsworth

Time to look for Stuart Ringholt’s “Do you want to talk about sculpture?” Today I was the first person who had said “yes”. He said that it was difficult to get people to talk about sculpture. Stuart is recording the conversations to document them and photographing his contact. Stuart had a yellow plastic children’s seat with him as a token object or sign of sculpture.

I didn’t get to see Tom Nicholson’s “Unfinished monument to Batman’s Treaty”. This sculpture was another public action; for the duration of the exhibition with off-set printed black and white sheets, except that the woman had run out of copies by the time that I encountered her.

Dface, spray cans, 2011

Not part of the exhibition but also temporary sculpture in Federation Square, were Dface’s two concrete spray-cans that appeared to break through the pavement. I don’t know if Federation Square is a good environment for sculpture, as the architecture of the square denies focal points. The square is designed to control the civic space and restrict public interactions.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,097 other followers

%d bloggers like this: