Gathering ... Objects, Ideas, Textures, Senses, Spaces

My initial reconnaissance was conducted 8:30-9:15am on Wednesday 21 January 2015.

The location turned out to include the abandoned Dunlop-Slazenger factory occupying a large site on Bowden Street. Different channels of the Alexandria Canal flow under and around the building/site. The Factory is arguably a quintessential industrial ruin: decaying brickwork, smashed windows, graffiti, disintegrating signs, 'for sale' signs, posters applied and ripped down, no entry and no trespass signs. There are peepholes through the gates fences. The site and the adjacent canal is occupied by human and non-human residents - youth, homeless, ibis, cats, spiders. Bowden Street itself is an intersection of various flows, directions and modes of movement - roads, bikes, canals, stairs. The texture of the streetscape is diverse - natural and cultural elements - bitumen, concrete, grass, colours. The soundscape, while not represented in this document, was diverse too - cars, bikes, running water (in the building), bird calls.




I took 90 images on first reconnaissance (iPhone only). A broad selection are presented in the attached document under some themes that emerged from my initial visit to the site: folding and unfolding space, space as a flow, non-human agency (repurposing human ruins), intersection and direction, urban water, and text and textures (weaving space).

The 'idea' of Alexandria itself adds interesting meaning. Alexandria is also the name of the well-known Ptolemaic Era Egyptian city, home of scholars, the lighthouse and the library. This Alexandria is named for Princess Alexandra, the wife of Edward VII - a post-colonial link to Sydney's colonial history. Alexandria has undergone historical changes from nineteenth and early twentieth century industrial development - the suburb was one of the largest industrial sites in early post-Federation Australia - to mixed use and incipient (and gathering) gentrification. The layers of material history and culture are throwntogether (Massey 2005) in the landscape, alongside urban nature - birds (Australian white ibis), plants, insects around the canal and the site - and so flowing water as urban nature too.

Several immediate over-arching elements emerge: flow, fold, feel (or text(ure)). (Maybe I'm attracted to the alliteration too.) The modes of connecting the elements of space, place and site come through verbs that signify change, transformation, intersection, multiplicity, weaving and connection. Flowing of space; folding of space; feeling space; weaving space; inscribing space. In this way space becomes not just a noun but a verb - it is something that is done, made, performed and in process. There is something evocative about the interplay of text and texture in the landscape - the inscriptions, the signs, the surface of buildings, the ground, streets - and the way text is inscribed on surface texture, and space is woven together, and unwoven (the multiplicity of space is deeper than surface inscription).

Maybe there are dialectics to explore at particular conceptual and material intersections (again, immediate thoughts):

[1] The physical place and the idea of place - Alexandria in the imagination and Bowden Street, Alexandria - the presence of the Australian White Ibis is interesting here, given its relationship to (and physical similarity with) the Sacred Egyptian Ibis. Alexandria as classical or regal juxtaposed to Alexandria as industrial and ruinous.
[2] The text and texture - inscriptions and surfaces in the landscape, accreted over time through different temporalities, agencies and flows - signs, graffiti, discarded media.
[3] The folding and flowing of space - buildings as folds (corners, intersections, which also unfold), canal and transport route as flows (water, road, bike; which also stop flowing). Space as an event of throwntogether materials, moorings and movements.
[4] The natural and the cultural - the interleaving of non-human and human inhabitants and uses. Whose city? Whose (post-)colony?

I conducted a second field visit 4-5pm Wednesday 21 January 2015. This time I sought to collect artefacts from the site to help develop and refine experimentation. My intention is to respond to the materiality, atmosphere and context of the site in developing the experiments. There are a number of piles of discarded items around the site, and I collected a range of objects from these, including broken pieces of double laminated glass, shards of ceramics, and an 'exit' sign. There was also a photocopier (machine) discarded in a car park, which I decided not to liberate (!!) but which gave me some ideas for some site-specific interventions that respond to ideas of folding space. More on this in a moment. First, I want to mention that some artefacts I found prompted some immediate experimentation, which seemed to be a successful start ...

photocopier front small.jpg

In feedback on the results/gathering, Paul suggested thinking about how to incorporate ideas of folding into the experimentation (as folding was palpable in the random generator), and indicated an image I had taken in which a puddle on the road captured the tree canopy in the sky, effectively folding different planes of space together. With this suggestion in mind, finding the double laminated glass on site prompted me to consider other ways I could use reflection (and reflective devices) as a means of experimenting with the folding of space upon itself, and thus represent the multiplicity and simultaneity of the spatial. So I decided to investigate the possibilities. I placed a handy sized piece of glass on the footpath to see how it might capture and reflect - and thus fold into the base plane (the ground) - the Dunlop Slazenger factory building, its signs, textures and icons, as well as the adjacent trees. I tried capturing different parts of the building and its signs, and moved the glass closer to and further away from the external wall. The effect seemed quite successful.

_MG_5031 flat wall 1.jpg

_MG_5037 flat dunlop.jpg

Responding to the site observation and the collection of artefacts, as well as the idea of Alexandria, there are several experiments I will try to develop:

[1] Installing paper (origami) building structures on the photocopier, and documenting what happens to them. I like the idea of building a paper structure to instal on a photocopier - the paper and the device both registering as ephemeral and transient. Origami also speaks to the idea of folding to make spaces and places. I have made four buildings for installation ...

origami buildings 2.JPG

[2] Picking up the idea of the library of Alexandria, I will consider a book of tracings of the mutability of the landscape at the site, and the elements which comprise it.

[3] I will try to find - and have also begun to document - examples of folds in the landscape, such as uneven poster paper pasted to the external wall of the factory. For example ...

_MG_5017 flat paper 4.jpg

_MG_5012 flat paper 1.jpg