On Wednesday I was in the city, and saw this paste-up in Baptist Place, where I used to work:
Blythe asked me if it was mine, and I said it wasn’t. We tried to find out whose it was, and Blythe eventually worked out it was by Trugglet.
What do you think this artwork has to say?
To me, the flying house suggests the ‘Australian dream’ of owning your own home – something that now seems impossible for many people in our society. The crashed house gives me the impression that something has gone wrong, and the buildings need to figure out what to do.
When I lived in Ferntree Gully with my parents, my dad made the same joke a number of times when we passed the cemetary. ‘It’s the dead centre of town!’ I can remember being in the car with one of my cousins when we passed a cemetery and he made the same joke. I wonder if he heard it from his dad?
This afternoon as I was walking home I passed the Melbourne General Cemetery, which is quite close to our house. Sometimes I walk through it, but this time I walked around the outside. I think it’s kind of sobering passing the resting place of the dead and considering the wieght of all the lives lived.
My understanding is that the earlier cemetery was in the location where the Queen Victoria Market now stands, and that there are a whole lot of people buried there, unmarked. I don’t think it’s good for a society to treat the dead in that way. I think it gives the living the impression that they too could be forgotten and walked overwithout a thought some day.
As it’s a public holiday here today, I thought I’d take a break from writing something myself. Instead I suggest you have a look at my friend Ann’s new blog, A Murrumbeena Local. I was lucky to get to spend a little bit of time in the Murrumbeena community, which is currently being impacted by the construction of the skyrail. Ann’s looking at how to support the community and the local businesses through the construction process.
Today as I was walking through Carlton I walked down a laneway where I know there to be a hidden space. If you know Carlton well you might recognise it. A fairly non-descript laneway opens up into a carpark, which I think has a bit of a different feel to the rest of the neighbourhood. It almost feels like a kind of rustic public square, hidden away behind Lygon Street.
It’s in the middle of a dense, urban area, but one of the residents has covered the ground floor of their building with a print of an ivy-covered wall.
It seems like something you’d expect to find in the country. It’s as though the resident has sought to create a sense of privacy and solitude in the city.
One the other side of the space, some folks have dragged out some furniture and seem to have been gathering together in the space:
The ivy-covered fence and the circle of chairs seem to me like opposite ways of inhabiting a neighbourhood.
On Friday I wrote a post about a Wandjina painting I saw in Brunswick, and why it doesn’t belong there. My friend Jen asked whether there can be space to ask dumb questions and make mistakes as we seek to work as allies of other groups. It can be easy for us to just keep quiet and refrain from acting because we’re afraid of doing the wrong thing. My experience has been that more often than not folks do give us space to get things wrong and to make ignorant mistakes. As a Settler Person seeking to be an ally of First Peoples I’ve often gotten things wrong and I’ve generally been corrected and forgiven if I’ve been open to being corrected and if I’ve been open to deepening our relationship. I think many of us carry some culutural baggage that says that we can’t get things wrong, that our peoples always have to get things right. It’s a hangover from believing our race and culture were superior to others. I think that is something we need to loosen our grip on.
On Monday I saw a Wandjina painting. There has been a lot of controversy over Wandjina paintings. When I found one in Brunswick I had mixed feelings about it. It is good to have a reminder that we are on Aboriginal land, but Wandjinas aren’t local to this area. Wandjina are sacred to the Mowanjum people from the Kimberly. When Settler people have portrayed them in Perth and the Blue Mountains it has caused a lot of grief for the Mowanjum people. I hope that whoever has painted this one is encouraged to find out more about the Wandjina and about why it should be treated with reverence.
Beginning in the Third Century CE, pilgrims began to wander from the city to the desert. They saw that the church was trying to align itself with the rulers of the Roman Empire more and more and so they wanted to separate themselves. Athanasius said so many people headed to the desert that the desert became a city.
My experience (and I think many of my friends share it) has been that we’ve been called back into the city, to the wilderness at the centre of empire. I think the imperial powers are still at work in the city and the church and they’ve often isolated and scattered us. A lot of people relocated to the city have found there a call back to the natural wilderness.
As we approach the season of Lent, do you find yourself called to the wilderness in anyway?
Melbourne 1836, Reinhart Hofmann.
(You can have a look at this painting at the State Library of Victoria.)
A lot of Australians seem to like camping.
Australians seem to like going to the beach, even in Victoria where the water’s pretty cold.
Australians seem to like having a barbeque, and in Melbourne we have public barbecues all over the place.
Melbourne started as a camp, where people came in from the beach, at the spot that is now enterprize park. Camping and other forms of outdoor living are part of our social practise because they are connected to our colonial history. John Batman’s party were camping on contested land. The area that is now the location of Melbourne, was already the homeland of the Woiwurrung and Boonerwrung peoples, who called the area ‘Narrm’. The colonial government of New South Wales believed the land belonged to the British Crown. Batman was trying to acquire land for his business, then Port Philip Association. This created a complex conflict (which I struggle to get my head around) between Tasmanian businesspeople, New South Welsh bureauocrats and local Aboriginal people.
Once again we have a situation where camping is contested in Melbourne. The proposed changes to Melbourne by-laws make it easier for authorised officers to interfere with people who depend on camping in the city. I wonder if we would see the current conflict differently if we humbly recognised that our city began as an unauthorised camp?
You can make a submission to Melbourne City Council about the proposed changes here.