The prime location beside busy Moreland Road is a car park because the massive LXRP project was all about a hypothetical increase in traffic flow. The priorities are evident and the Louise Paramor’s sculpture was installed not to be seen but to art-wash and tick boxes. It is not a hostile installation, just not very friendly as it is only visible from one side of the new railway station and isolated from most people in the area. Basically, a waste of a good sculpture.
I’ve seen faster installations of Paramor’s sculpture, see my blog post about installing Ursa Major. The landscaping around the sculpture took months with the sculpture isolated behind temporary fencing and bollards.
The sculpture is a substitute, having destroyed the Gandolfo Gardens and its mature trees. Adding to evidence that the sculpture is a substitute, it was born with a plastic spoon in its mouth. It is part of a larger group of sculptures that Paramor has been working on for years.
Studies for a Boomtown (2016) were intended as studies or maquettes for future large-scale sculptures, were made from found pieces of plastic, steel, and wood. Scaled up and fabricated in steel from on a model made of readymade plastic parts, the knitting needle, the wig stand and some kind of squeeze pump.
Visitors to the NGV may be familiar with Paramor’s Noble Ape in the sculpture garden, but it is different because it is beside a train station in Melbourne’s inner north. Melbourne’s train network rarely uses the arts for placemaking. There are few sculptures near train stations, but only Fleur Summers’s Making sense at Jewell (see my post) and FIDO in Fairfield (see my post) are visible from the train.
What does it mean? The intention of public art as a provocation for the public’s imagination seems lazy and optimistic. Ambiguity is often overrated, and it will take time to judge how it has provoked the public. However, public sculptures are successful where the public completes stories of the sculpture. As Duchamp noted: “the onlooker has the last word, and it is always posterity that makes the masterpiece.”
Not that the onlooker is given any information about the new sculpture. No plaque, no title. Not even the name of the artist and Paramor does have the moral right of the artist to be acknowledged.
Writing about architecture or public sculpture just after its installation is like writing about a battle plan before engaging with the enemy. It is too sympathetic towards the intentions of the architect and sculptor. It doesn’t care about the people who use the space. Only after they engage with the architecture or sculpture and make it their own, often renaming the sculpture in the process, can its qualities be fairly assessed. If a public sculpture is only known by one name, it hasn’t engaged with the public.
Writing about the recently installed Paramor sculpture at Moreland Station might be a mistake. It is a mistake that would favour the sculptor and commissioning process and ignore that it is a public sculpture. Sure, I could ask a few passers-by about their opinion or take some quotes from social media, but that would be merely anecdotal, not a representative sample. Nor is this fair to the randoms because these are just initial reactions, and they have been given no time or experience to form an opinion.
At least it is a sculpture by an established artist. In the past, there was a preference in Melbourne for the commissioning of emerging artists because it was cheaper to ‘foster emerging talents, ’ resulting in many second-rate sculptures. We are also fortunate that we are not living in an earlier time when a statue of Premier Dan Andrews or some other white Christian male would be erected like an unsolicited dick pic.