The Brag

Art & About: Laneways By George

In Art & About 2009, Arts, Blog, Brag 332 (October 5), Crave Sydney 2009, Interviews on October 6, 2009 at 1:14 pm

The Infinity Forest (Laneways, By George!)

The Infinity Forest (Laneways, By George!)

Laneways By George! Hidden Networks
Interviews by Bridie Connell

Part of the annual Art & About festival, Laneways by George! Hidden Networks invites interdisciplinary teams of the city’s finest creative minds to transform Sydney’s laneways with a series of innovative installation artworks.

This year’s program, selected by curator and urban designer Dr Steffan Lehmann, focuses on collaboration and sustainability, presenting eight projects which take into account the heritage and pre-existing structures of each site and reflect the changing role of public spaces in the urban environment.

Below, we interview the creators of each of the eight Laneways installations.

Family Unit: Chill Trailer
By Anne Graham and the Bond Family

What is the basic concept behind the project?
The Chill Trailer is an adaptable mobile unit that accommodates a multitude of uses and occupies a wide range of site configurations. In essence it is a self-contained shelter with associated containers, furnishings, pot plants, and individual pod shelters that can unpack and pack into a transportable trailer. It is characterized by its ability to appear and disappear without a trace, and by its capacity to stage numerous events displaying the varied talents and interests of the team members and other users.

Family Unit: Chill Trailer
is a process as well as a product, as if the various locations, which host the exhibition, are laboratories or workshops. This work operates with the dynamic and unpredictable variables of the City, a City that is never static, that never sleeps. Family Unit: Chill Trailer is a series of constantly changing performances in the hidden network of Sydney’s laneways.

The project is a collaboration between you (artist Anne Graham) and The Bond Family – who is the Bond Family?
We are the Bond Family! I am Mrs Bond. My husband is Tony Bond (curator, cook). I use Anne Graham because that’s always been my artist name. Jan Bond (landscape designer, gardener) is Tony’s first wife and Duncan Bond (architect, musician) is their son – do not worry I met Tony long after they split up and Jan is now one of my best friends. Duncan’s almost wife is Jas (Project manager/architect). They are getting married next week! Rob Graham is my son – he is a student at RMIT and an artist/ DJ. There are more of us but we are the ones doing the trailer. Me, Tony, Duncan, Jas and the baby live in the same house so we often work together.

How will audiences be encouraged to participate?
Dance, eat, play music, make a speech, learn how to grow a permaculture garden, talk, have graffiti competition, art auction. Endless possibilities!

Forgotten Songs (Angel Place)
Interview with Michael Thomas Hill, Director of Lightwell.

Forgotten Songs
What is the basic concept behind the project?
We have attempted to show that changes to the environment alter many unseen aspects of life. In this installation we have highlighted the changes to the acoustic environment – the sound of the city – through the loss of native bushland. Our installation comprises a canopy of bird cages and a soundscape. Some cages have speakers within them that play back the songs of the species of birds which used to live in the city, but don’t any longer due to changes to the landscape.

How many cages will be suspended in the laneway? Where have they been sourced?
We have over one hundred bird cages. Most of them are second hand and sourced from people we met through eBay, or word of mouth. We got a lot from the side of the road and from second hand stores. We also have a few new ones from a local manufacturer.

Will the cages be illuminated at night?
The laneway is lit at night and the bird cage installation makes interesting use of the shadows cast on the walls of the lane. The soundscape alters at night to play the sounds of the nocturnal birds, like the frogmouths, owls and nightjars.

Are the birdsongs actual recordings or are they digitally produced? Are they the sounds of birds native to Sydney city?
The birdsongs are actual recordings of species from around Sydney still living in bushland. Richard Major from the Australian Museum has been working with us on the project and has compiled a list of birds that could have been found near or around the Angel Place area before the arrival of Europeans. The resulting habitat loss as the city grew means that these birds, especially small insect eating birds, have had to flee to the edges of the city where they can find food and nesting sites. Bigger opportunists like the white ibis and sulphur crested cockatoos, as well as the introduced species like pigeons and mynahs, all thrive in the city. These are the calls we often notice today if we can hear anything above the traffic.

I Dwell In The City And The City Dwells In Me (Bridge Lane)
Interview with Kim Bridgland.

I Dwell In the City crew working in the studio.

I Dwell In the City crew working in the studio.

What is the basic concept behind the project?
The project grew out of our innate ability to try and read really subtle personality differences into all the details of a human body. Characteristics like old calloused hands, a weathered old face, light skin/dark skin, freckles & moles, young skin, muscles/no muscles etc. We see these details and we’ll write a story for the person it belongs to, we can’t help it. So to take these qualities severely out of context, having them belong to a dirty old laneway for example, creates a really interesting and slightly strange scenario where we begin to project our own characteristics into these buildings and invent a human narrative for them.

The concept behind I Dwell In The City then is to get people thinking about how their environments have an effect on them. The growths in the work are lingering traces of all the people that have been and have passed through the lane, that over time have transformed the very nature of the place. The buildings themselves are taking on our characteristics and quite awkwardly becoming human. If we look at this in reverse then, if we think about the effect our environment, in this case the city has on us then we can understand that where we live and work plays a hell of a roll in shaping our identity. It’s in these strange traces of tenderness and frailty that offers a little hope, as they slowly but steadily take root and crumble away at the hard nature of the city.

Will visitors be able to touch the skin wall?
Yeah definitely, we want there to be touch. We want people to come up and get curious, to get a bit closer, to touch them, stroke them, hear them. I think it’s that kind of intimacy that we’re encouraging here, not only in the work, the whole city!

Will the skin be colour-matched to the existing brick wall?

There will be a blend as these new growths emerge out of the walls, a little raw and tender but also a little dirty. Really we want these things to look like they’ve been here a while, slowly growing out of the buildings but its only now that we notice them.

How is the skin produced?
With a huge amount of work! The process is similar to special effects prosthetics but in this case that involves building an exact replica of the parts of the site that the growths are emerging from back in the workshop to sculpt over in clay. Then a bit of back and forth between fibreglass casts and silicone and onto a rigid frame to support it which can finally get fixed on site.

Is there a soundtrack to accompany the project?
We’re working with a really interesting sound artist Theresa Schubert, who has dealt a lot with growth and decay in her practice, perfect for what we’re doing here. She’s created a sound collage that will subtly fill the space of the lane, tying it all together and extending the project beyond the realms of a static gallery piece and allows it to live a little.

Infinity Forest (Penfold & Hosking Place)
Interview with Matthew Chan, Principle architect, Scale Architecture

What is the basic concept behind the project?
The Infinity Forest is a green oasis amongst the hard, vertical walls of Penfold and Hosking Place. Normally used as a shortcut or smoking area, this forgotten alley’s visitors will now find it transformed by a burst of concentrated nature. In the space between fire escapes, vehicle ramps and back door entrances, you will come upon tough timber walls that conceal a forest within.

Will live trees be growing in the room? Are they native to Sydney?
Live trees will be growing in the room. They will start to bloom when they are installed. The trees are Silver Birch, chosen specifically for their capacity to clean heavy metals from contaminated soil and for their forest like appearance. We are not trying to re-create the Australian bush, but to create a very compact forest –like a landscape that sits in complete contrast with its laneway context.

Will there be a soundtrack?
The sound track is silence in the city!

What type of experience do you hope to give the audience?
By experiencing this intimate urban living room, you discover yourself captured in an infinite view of a silver birch forest, where you can pause and reflect on the city above.

The Meeting Space (Little Hunter Street)
Interview with Liz Herbert, landscape architect, Aspect Studios.

How will audiences be encouraged to interact with the space?
The Meeting Place is a playful installation that encourages participation and interaction whilst heightening the experience of moving through the urban space of Little Hunter Street. Two four meter high fabric walls sit within the laneway, compressing the pedestrian path and framing a sliver of sky that accentuates the unique space of the lane. People walking through the lane in both directions must negotiate with each other to gain their passage through the meeting place, while the elastic walls flex to accommodate the lean of the body. At night The Meeting Place is illuminated from above with an interactive lighting component encouraging people to activate and play in the space. The sculpture is part playground and part architectural installation appealing to all ages.

What is the basic concept behind the project?
The concept for The Meeting Place is to create a social space which brings people together whilst amplifying the unique existing space of the lane way (tall and thin). It creates a framed path that can be entered from the north or the south (Curtin Place and Hunter Street respectively).

What materials are being used?
The four meter high structure is composed of a steel framework supporting two yellow fabric (polyethylene) ‘walls’. The material has an opacity to it, which allows for views through and when lit at night becomes a canvas for revealing movement of people through the space.

What type of experience are you trying to create? Are any special events planned to take place in The Meeting Place?
The Meeting Place focuses on the ‘everyday experience’ and is reflective of how people of varying ages and demographics engage with each other.

PS. Potential Spaces (Tankstream Way)
Interview with Isabelle Toland, architect, Neeson Murcutt.

What is the basic concept behind the project?
PS: Potential Spaces is a collaboration between three disciplines – law, architecture and art. The installation makes apparent the ‘invisible’ legal framework of Tankstream Way and Hamilton Street, originally a single continuous street built directly over the path of the stream. The installations make reference to historical records such as property and planning boundaries, and written descriptions and paintings of the area. This information is translated onto the lane ways through an interpreted or amplified survey language of brightly coloured road paint, custom bronze survey markers inserted into the road and footpath surface, iridescent ropes with pendant fittings hanging like a traditional surveyors tool – the plumb bob and string. Standard City of Sydney planter boxes are also redeployed as lounges for seating and planted with small trees and shrubs that were native to the area when the road was once a lush and fertile river bed – making reference to the original nature of the site.

Was it difficult for artists, architects and lawyers to collaborate?
The most difficult thing was being able to arrange times when we could all meet!
Although we each practice in specific fields in our day-to-day professional lives – our interests and previous experiences actually overlap quite a bit – so although it sounds like we each come from very different backgrounds, this is not actually the case. For instance, the lawyer on our team actually studied architecture prior to studying law, and much of his work as a lawyer already intersects with architects with his focus on property, planning and construction; one of the artists also has a law degree and together they have done a number of collaborative public installation works with architects already; and similarly for us, as architects, have worked collaboratively with artists and have worked on a number of small scale public installation type projects. But we do all still bring a different point of view to the table as individuals, so it was very refreshing to hear each other’s ideas.

Which of the ‘potentials’ will be realised in the laneway? How will the other ideas be represented?
The installation will provide a bright and festive seating area for the public to gather and hang out in over the summer months. Certain elements of the work such as the road paint and custom bronze survey markers are to be left behind after the work is dismantled. The idea of leaving these traces of the work is to encourage a further questioning of the type of space the laneway could be even after the installation has been dismantled. Even if the painted lines fade and the bronze markers tarnish and become dull with age – you will always be able to see that they were there – even if they become subtle over time.

The bronze survey markers embedded in the laneway contain symbolic references to the elements that have formed the site over time – with its history as the main fresh water source of Sydney, an element of demarcation (firstly between classes of convicts and later between parishes), a bottle washing yard and steam biscuit manufacturer that became prominent features of the street.

Whilst relating to these specific historical elements, the shell and bottle are also symbols of fresh food and water, but also of discarded empty vessels, as early settlers began polluting the stream turning it from water source to sewer and resulting in the eventual covering over of the stream. In a trans-historical gesture, the contemporary markers quote John Hamilton of the Steam Biscuit Bakery, who in a letter from 1861 noted as the Tankstream was being covered over: “The street is now being formed”.

Are any special events planned for the PS. laneway?
The Chalk Horse artists on our team will be doing a number of pop-up events /performances during the period of the installation that will be listed progressively on their website.

The Urban Barcode (Abercrombie Lane)
Interview with Hannah Tribe, architect, Tribe Studios.

What is the basic concept behind the project?
The laneways installations are about framing a space of engagement with the city. The laneways are transformed from a place of movement to a place of stasis and conversation about the city. In The Urban_Barcode, we are installing the barcodes of two texts about the city, so that you can literally occupy a kind of space of dialogue between the two texts.

What is the symbolic significance of the octagon?
Existing city conditions are extended into the laneways by the repetition of existing city patterns and forms. The octagonal pattern extends the octagonal awning opposite on George Street through the length of the laneway – creating a visual/ memory link.

What are some of the films that will be screened at the Tank Stream Cinema? Why have they been selected?
The tank stream cinema is yet to be locked down, it is a pop up event looking to screen films that deal with the nature of cities reinforcing the concept of the installation as a space to engage with the city.

  1. […] (an iconic location that also plays host to Forgotten Songs, a permanent art installation of the Laneways: By George! Hidden Networks project). This event will mark the progress of Bizarre Bazaar from a TAFE Sydney Institute group […]

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