Tag Archives: Flinders Street Station

Happy 20th Birthday Platform

In 1990 Andrew Seward and Richard Holt established The Platform Artists Group Inc. 20 years on and it has become Melbourne’s longest running artists-run initiative and public art project in the CBD. It is open to the public every weekday and Saturday mornings all year. It is a non-profit public art organization supported by the City of Melbourne, Arts Victoria and the Australia Council.

Megan Clunes writes about the Platform’s 20 years in Broadsheet Melbourne. The photograph accompanying the article shows the original Platform in the curved underpass at the then Spencer Street Station (now Southern Cross Station). The vitrines in the Spencer Street underpass were curved streamlined modern cabinets that became redundant after failing to predict the future of advertising. I remember seeing some early exhibitions in the Platform cabinets and being under-whelmed by the experience.

The cabinets at Flinders Street Station originally were known as Platform 2 and were opened 5 years after the original Spencer Street space. It was known as Platform 2 when I exhibited there in 1995 with members of Dada tribe #373.

“Celebrating 20 years of Platform” is an anniversary exhibition at Platform. There are lots of familiar names in this exhibition; not just from Platform but from the whole artists run spaces of Melbourne. (Try entering their surnames in this blog’s search box – don’t bother with their first names, it is a simple search system and will return every entry with that word.) I reviewed Brad Haylock’s neon “them/us” when it was originally exhibited at Platform; this is also a review of an exhibition by Simon Pericich, who is also in the anniversary exhibition.

This time when I looked at Platform’s cabinets I was most impressed with the Christopher Scuito’s exhibition in the “Sample” cabinet (next to the coffee shop booth and the exit to Flinders Street). “Sample” presents the work of art school students. Scuito’s has collaged beefcake cigarette lighters onto reproductions of classic sword and sorcery fantasy images emphasizing the S&M and homoerotic quality of these illustrations. Patrice Sharkey has beautifully curated Scuito’s exhibition; the details are tremendous from the black backboard supported by stacks of comic books to the whip on top of the black-framed images.

There is a publication, What Art, Which Public: Platform Artists Group 1990-2010 edited by Angela Brophy. I haven’t been able to get hold of a copy of it (I did ask at Sticky Institute but they didn’t know anything). Platform has rarely made history; its internal chronology has not been tumultuous either. In 2008 the roof of the Campbell’s Arcade collapsed when road works on Flinders Street broke through but this only damaged the shops and not the exhibition spaces. Later that year Cecilia Fogelberg and Trevor Flinn’s exhibition at Platform, ‘The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’ was censored for nudity. But it was overshadowed, a week later, by the subsequent attack on Bill Henson.

Looking back over my blog entries I have reviewed so many of the exhibitions at Platform, not because of the quality of the exhibitions but because it is so accessible. I can easily see the exhibition a couple of times before writing about it.

Enjoyed or ignored by the public who pass through the pedestrian underpass each day on their way to or from Flinders Street Station. Platform’s exhibitions space presents a variety of works by mostly student and other new artists. 20 years is a remarkable achievement for any artists-run initiative, it is an institution for a whole generation of Melbourne artists. Platform will probably continue providing exhibition space to new artists until the subway is renovated which is unlikely to happen in the next 20 years.


Unliveable Melbourne

This is not a review of Metro Gallery’s exhibition of Mrs Bennett’s (Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa) paintings because I couldn’t get to see it due to Melbourne’s public transport. From one of the world’s most liveable cities (but that was only if you were a senior executive) Melbourne is fast becoming unliveable due to a serious neglect in infrastructure. Melbourne has a lack of drinking water, public transport and other basic items needed for a metropolis of approximately 4 million people. Infrastructure problems have also led to power brownouts and blackouts especially in hot weather. Many of Melbourne’s suburbs like Coburg, are built without adequate public toilets, purpose built libraries and other amenities.

There has been decades of neglect and I mean decades. I frequently review exhibitions at Platform in the Degraves St. subway at Flinders Street; the subway was completed in time for the Melbourne Olympics and hasn’t been renovated since.

The 19th Century colonial vision of Melbourne was for a European city with wide boulevards of trees with trams running up the middle and suburbs connected by a network of trains. However, post-war Melbourne grew to a vast size as a huge suburban sprawl encircled the city. Flying over Melbourne you realize how flat the architecture is; there are very few buildings over two stories high and the suburbs spread out to the horizon.

The lack of a functional public transport system (actually it is not a “system” and the operators use the term “network” to describe the mess), bicycle paths, pedestrian areas and a sprawling car-based post-war metropolitan geography has created other problems for Melbourne. The cars, along with a primary reliance on coal fired power stations to provide electricity, contribute to the greenhouse effect and more extreme weather, as if Melbourne didn’t have enough variety of weather conditions.

This is might appear beyond the scope of this blog’s culture focus (‘get back to writing about art exhibitions’). But the culture of Melbourne includes its infrastructure and the political culture that has allowed the decades of neglect. It is the reason why you aren’t reading a review of an exhibition. If you would have preferred to read an art review instead of this entry then this is yet another reason for you to stop voting for the ALP and Liberal Party that have and will continue to neglect the city’s infrastructure and ruin its environment.

 


Platform – September 10

“The Resistance of Memory” by Paul J. Kalemba is a surreal underground garden is installed in the last vitrine at Platform (in the Degraves St. underpass at Flinders St. Station). Fruits preserved in jars holding the preserved memory of the last harvest. The peaches, pears and plums glow in the half buried wooden cabinet as moss and herbs, mostly thyme, grow around it. The wine bottle and glass are empty – the party has been over for some time. But how long? The broken clock, full of more thyme is dripping destroying part of the wooden base of the cabinet as the real and unreal merge. Kalemba has created a fantastic surreal garden capable that feeds the imagination images and ideas that confound each other. The title refers to Rene Magritte’s surrealist painting “The Persistence of Memory”.

Paul J. Kalemba describes himself as “an urban edible®evolutionary” and has exhibited in Platform’s “Underground Garden” before but this is his best garden yet.

In Platform’s main series of glass cabinets there are Kieran Stewart & Stone Lee. On one side there are Stone Lee papier-mâché versions of Australian animals. On the other side is Kieran Stewart exhibition of series of small sculptures made from wood, steel, glass and black powder. The wood and steel forms hold glass containers of black powder in a range of formal variations. These engaging sculptures reminded me of the functional elegance of machines used to demonstrate physics principles.

In the large “Vitrine” space there “Voyeurism” by Bernadette Burke combining figure painting and video with videos for faces. The combined images are very effective but I don’t think that they say anything about voyeurism as the figures all look as if they intend to be seen.

In “Sample” there is an exhibition by Merryn Lloyd, curated by Patrice Sharkey as part of Platform’s Emerging Curator mentorship program, which really needed more substance and interest.

In the cabinets at Majorca Building (out of the underpass, up Degraves St, across Flinders Lane and in Centre Place, with “Bellevue Jewellery” in gold letters above them) are two photographs by David Mutch – “The Tourists”. Previously exhibited at Seventh Gallery earlier this year, these two archival inkjet prints show a figure in bare, desolate landscapes; one landscape looks urban, the looks rural both were photographed on the banks of the Yarra River.


March @ Platform

I always try to see the monthly exhibitions at Platform when I have a few minutes before my train at Flinders Street Station. It is a very accessible artist-run-imitative with several separate spaces in the subway going to Degraves Street from the station.

The highlight of this month’s exhibitions at Platform is Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman “Patient” – a feasting vignette, commission for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2010 (there is always some kind of arts festival on in Melbourne, often more than one). It is a small attractive, mouth watering, combination of sculpture and gardens. Even the drip-feed intravenous drip system and the blue hospital sheet doesn’t put me off the garden fresh vegetables on display. Lettuce, chili bushes, basil, chives, and thyme – a full salad is growing in form of the patient. Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman is a set designer, illustrator, photographer, puppeteer and installation artist. She has created an ice clock room in the famous Ice Hotel in Sweden and helped plant the vertical garden in Melbourne Central. This is not her first garden exhibition at Platform, in 2008 she had “Eat the City”. (See my entry on Artist-Gardeners for more about this growing art movement.)

Lucy Farmer, a performance artist, visual artist and jewellery designer, is exhibiting “Review” at Platform. Her statement about the exhibition reads: “What you see is quite clearly fake yet the constant surveillance of a public space is now visible and remembered, not half forgotten through a camera lens. Who is critiquing whom? Review is a site-specific exhibition created to challenge psychological and social readings of value, class, status, control and power through portraiture, installation and a heightened awareness of the physicality of the audience in relation to the work and their necessary participation with the work.” It is a bit much of an explanation for a series of portraits and I don’t see where the surveillance cameras come in. I kept on thinking: should I know these people? The theatricality of the red backgrounds, the gold frames and dark portraits all created out of paper taped together, made me think about the superficial nature of self-image.

Emma Anna combines sculpture, installations and printmaker at Vitrine. Her installations are always appealing but I can never really get into them. I’m not sure why, but they feel thin, as if to examine them to closely might just poke holes through the paper. As if to make up for the paper-thin content there is a lot to look at in the installation ranging from Surrealism to post-minimalist printmaking – her USB fitted flying ducks have an inescapable and appealing logic to them but why are they not connected?

Kim Summer and Clea Chiller have a great installation at Sample. The intensity of examining another person’s living room/bedroom along with the reality of homelessness makes this a successful installation. It has been composed with great care. The TV flickers across empty channels, there is a pin-board of photos, a mirror, books, toiletries – some of basic aesthetics necessary for survival. The figure of the sleeping occupant transforms this stuff into a portrait of a life in need of shelter.


Flinders Street Station Centennial

Today is the centennial of Flinders Street Station. The centennial of Flinders Street Station has been largely ignored amidst the debacle and neglect endemic in Melbourne’s public transport, there is nothing to celebrate. This iconic Melbourne building is a popular and convenient meeting place. The original Melbourne Terminus railways station was completed in 1854 but was soon outgrown but the city. In 1900 construction of the current Flinders Street Station building began and it was completed in 1910.

Jenny Davies is author of the new book, Beyond The Façade, about Flinders Street Station http://www.flindersstreetstation100.com/ and has curated the current exhibition at Platform. It is very relevant exhibition to the Platform exhibition space, the public and the time. There are artifacts, photographs and didactic panels in a very professional museum display presenting a decade-by-decade view of the railway station.

Major central railway stations are cities within cities and this was the idea of the original design for Flinders Street Station. The station had everything: a gym, a public library, meeting rooms, a ballroom and a children’s nursery. In the 1960s there was even a bowling alley under the station. Nothing has replaced these facilities; they lie empty and abandoned in the building. It is tragic that it has been neglected for so many decades by State governments more interested in building roads and hosting major sporting events.

Along with this didactic historicy exhibition at Platform there is there are two cabinets of art about Flinders Street Station. Artist, John Bates has very flat paintings of the station displayed in the “Vitrine” cabinet. And in the “Sampler” cabinet are stylish images of Flinders Street Station by industrial design student, Tristan Tait,

There are the microenvironments of the city centre that can be changed by the existence of art galleries. For example, the revitalisation of the Degraves St. Subway, also known as Campbell’s Arcade, that goes under Flinders St. to the station from Degraves St. The subway was completed in time for the 1956 Olympics and it has not been refurbished since. It has many of its original features like the long row of telephone booths (no longer functional). Campbell’s Arcade has its own dynamic, given that it is one of the entrances to Melbourne’s main metropolitan railway station. And since the Platform art space the Degraves St. subway became an interesting place to walk through and even sit and eat your lunch on the benches in during Melbourne’s winters.

The revitalization of Campbell’s Arcade started with Platform 2. There already was a Platform artist space in vitrines in a subway at the old Spencer Street Station. And buskers have always found the space at the end of the stairs attractive for its position and acoustics. Platform 2, now simply called Platform after the closure of the Spencer Street location. Platform utilized built in display cases that were originally intended for commercial displays but were no longer used.

I have taken an interest in the underpass after exhibiting at Platform 2 in 1995. A year later when a group of friends and I opened Subterranean Arts, an artist run space. There was, already, a millenaries and a shop selling PVA clothes leading the way on the alternate direction for the arcade. At the time there were still the traditional type of shops: the newsagent, second-hand book window and old-fashioned barbershop. Subterranean Arts closed down after six months when energy, finance and direction ran out; the fate of many an artist-run space. Other shops have opened and closed but the trend has been towards boutique alternative fashion and other interests like vinyl records and skateboards. Sticky, a shop specializing in zines, and other limited edition publication opened a few years later and has been growing stronger ever since. It is incredible to think that in the age of the internet people are still producing handmade publications. And Sticky helps them do it with an extra long stapler, badge machines and typewriters for public use. The second-hand book window has been converted into another exhibition space – Vitrine. And Platform continued to expand into more used display cases.

I have written about the exhibitions at Platform many times in this blog – including when it was flooded when road works above collapsed the roof – Is the Art Alright? When I was there on Thursday afternoon I meet the author, Jenny Davis and enjoyed a jazz busker duo playing.

Aside from Platform and Sticky there isn’t much art in Flinders Street Station, even compared to other major railway stations. The only officially commissioned work is the Mirka Mora mosaic mural was installed in 1986.


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