Sunday, June 20, 2010

But the only birds I saw were seagulls

During the time we spent on Cockatoo Island last Sunday, I was only partially focused on the art. The time walking around the island between installations was just as good and I had the camera out the whole time.
It's a gorgeous old industrial landscape, if you like that sort of thing. I really do. It is completely built-up and there are so many interesting colours, textures, and layers of history.
built on top
The earliest buildings on the island are convict-built sandstone. This one has a metal second storey plonked on top. Delightfully utilitarian - mostly in Sydney the sandstone buildings are treated with more respect!
rusty crane

I had a thing for the decaying metal and wood cranes dotted around the island. I always find those freight cranes and other stuff around ports interesting.
For those who were troubled by my mention of "lots of little dark bunkers and tunnels" - there really is a lot of open space, and big indoor spaces, too.
turbine hall2

air raid shelter
But we did go inside some slightly spooky spaces.
stores tunnel
I didn't take a lot of photos of the Biennale works, although at least it was allowed at Cockatoo Island - the MCA doesn't allow photography, at least for special exhibitions.

At first we just thought these guys posing with one of the works (a massive image from Althea Thauberger's La mort e la miseria) were amusing. They took turns posing as part of the picture, a cool effect because the figures in the photo were life-sized. But long after I took these pictures they were still fooling around in front of it and there were quite a few people waiting, quietly annoyed, to get a proper look. Also, they were touching the work, which is rude and inappropriate.

People behave very differently in spaces like these compared to the more formal atmosphere of an art gallery. There were lots of families with children visiting Cockatoo island, which was great to see. The weather was nice for the first weekend in several, and it was obviously a more welcoming location for people to bring younger kids, than some of the other venues. (Though it could be kind of dangerous as well - there were lots of things to trip over, and to climb, as well as unprotected edges to fall off into Sydney Harbour too.) But I also found myself feeling irritated in a couple of the smaller rooms with video works, where groups of kids were tearing through, giggling about how spooky it was, and then an adult came in shouting 'time to go now! Get out here'. It's not as though I think people should be hushed in the presence of art (far from it) but some respect for others wanting to view and take in the work would be nice. They were treating the place like an amusement park.
jumping castle
Speaking of which, when I saw this jumping castle in the distance I thought, cool, even the jumping castle is made up to be a bit arty for the Biennale. But it was actualy the other way around. This is Brook Andrew's Jumping Castle War Memorial. The patterning is related to his indigenous (Wiradjuri) heritage but I gather the memorial is for all forgotten victims of genocides. There are black and white skulls suspected in the corner sections. There was supposed to be a choice of whether to jump or not (adults only), which I suppose would add emphasis to the juxtaposition of the serious theme and playful object. We were told that they had had to stop permitting anyone to jump on it though, as apparently it was not standing up to the punishment.


Alwen said...

We went past a lot of decaying industrial sites on the train to Chicago, but I wasn't quick enough to get pictures!

Donna Lee said...

What a cool site. I like the blue blue sky with the cranes. I would probably not have gone into the spooky places, claustrophobic here. I love the jumping castle. It's an interesting version of a memorial. And it will do what a memorial is supposed to do; make you remember something.