Category Archives: ‘sham dailies

one year

On Thursday, I was late opening the gallery, on account of accompanying Vanessa on the 1976 tour. I had put a notice on the door indicating that I wouldn’t be opening up til noon, but I arrived about ten past noon. Two ladies were standing around the doorway, waiting to come in. I apologised for being late. They said no worries, they had gone off for a coffee while they waited.

They came inside, and looked around, very interested, asked lots of questions, bought one of my folders with all the blog printouts. Then one of them said:

“So, where is Denise’s artwork?”

Denise? I didn’t know what they were talking about. I suggested that they might have got the wrong week – maybe Denise’s show doesn’t start til next week. In fact, I remember seeing that the Glebe and Inner Western Weekly had listed someone else’s show instead of mine. That probably accounts for the error. But they were confused. They had a flyer for Denise’s show in the car, they were sure the dates were right.

Anyway, they stuck around for a while, and we talked about the relative merits of different suburbs. Balmain particularly, and the transformations that have gone on there during the last twenty years. When they were ready to leave, I suggested they show me Denise’s flyer, so I could at least pass on the correct info in case any other punters came along to see her work. They went and fetched it. The flyer read “opening Wednesday May 25th, the exhibition to be launched by her excellency the governor, Marie Bashir.” This was odd, I’m sure we would have known if the Governor was around. Scanning further down, I read: “the exhibition will continue until June 3rd, 2005”.

These ladies were exactly a YEAR late to see Denise’s show.

One of them turned to me and asked: “so…If we came here a year ago…we wouldn’t have met you, then?”

I didn’t feel so bad about being a little late to open the gallery.

get out there

From an article in the Herald today:

Daycare centres should not be used to teach children about gay and lesbian relationships, says Premier Morris Iemma.

His comments come after a report claimed a Tempe childcare centre uses books that feature characters from same-sex parent families.

The Learn to Include books include titles such as The Rainbow Cubby House, which is about a young girl and her two mothers who build a cubby house in their backyard with a little boy and his two fathers.

but our man Sam comes out with guns a blazin’:

Marrickville Mayor Sam Byrne said the Premier’s comments were an example of the “hysteria” that had erupted over the use of the Learn to Include books at the council’s seven day care centres.

“It’s not a gay rights debate. It’s not sex education. It’s about inclusion and about having material that reflects the diversity of our community,” Mr Byrne said.

“If the Premier, or anybody else out there, thinks that there are not families out there with two mums or there are not families out there with disabilities [or] from different backgrounds, then they are mad. They are crazy. They need to get out and get amongst the people again.”

The reason I mention this article (thanks Mayhem for passing it along) is not because I wish to start a debate on this issue here.

Rather, it’s to consider what Sam says at the end of his quote: “get out and amongst the people”. It’s an important point he makes, and one I’d like to explore, with regards to representational politics.

How much of a bigshot do you have to be to lose touch with what’s going on “in the real world”? To what extent do you lose touch with the “bigger picture” when you’re at “street level”?


Barbara thinks there’s still time for another climax, another crisis-and-resolution before the end of the ‘sham. In fact, she’s even gone as far as to prescribe the type: a romantic encounter. She’s been itching for it to happen ever since the beginning. I can just imagine her sitting at her laptop in her Camperdown apartment (only a few blocks away from the gallery where I type these words) scanning my paragraphs for some clue, some hint of juicy gossip that might sneak sideways, and unintentionally, into the blog postings.
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chores and helpers


I meet the Aquilizans for the first time. Anna and I walk up to the Petersham Town Hall to see how they’re getting along. The power keeps shorting out in their flat, something about too many heaters on the same circuit. They must be cold, coming all the way from the Philippines.

Noon: I decide enough is enough. It’s time to punch through the border of the ‘sham and inspect the gallery in Camperdown.

Up til now, I have been flirting with a few other ideas: leaving it until the opening, and grandly entering a completely empty gallery; sending someone else as my proxy to measure and photograph the space so I would know what to plan for, and so on. In the end, I figure all these stratagems are unnecessary. Mere stylistic gimmicks. Since my visit to Uncle Lester, the ‘sham’s been bleeding air from its south side for nearly a fortnight. It’s pointless to pretend that the border rule is as important as it once was. Anyway, my point has been made. My integrity is intact. Isn’t it?

I walk along Parramatta Road towards Stanmore. Crossing the lights at Phillip Street, I feel the same little frisson as the other two times I’ve transgressed. But the feeling is fainter now, the power of the boundaries is beginning to fade. I keep expecting someone to lean out of a bus and exclaim “Hey Lucas! What are YOU doing here?” People love catching you in the act. But it doesn’t happen.

I pass the Stanmore McDonalds, and there it is: the former border of Petersham. I’ve only ever seen it in the photo Lisa took for me (which graces the banner of this blog) and for some reason I’d assumed the pavement signage would be much larger. And there’s the creek. Poor old Johnston’s Creek, reduced to a concrete-clad semi-circular drain running between a global take away franchise and an industrial building. There’s a plaque, embedded into the cement in front of a rusty fence overlooking the creek. The plaque needs a rub with a bit of Brasso.

At the gallery, I measure up the walls. There’s enough space for all the blog entries to be blu-tacked up, one day at a time. They’ll fill the room. If nothing else, it’ll be an impressive, and graphic, display of labour. I drag some furniture into the room, couches and a table for the computer. It’s going to be a simple show.

On the way home, I stop in at the Olympia Milk Bar. I figure, if I’m outside the border anyway, I may as well have the best and cheapest milkshake in the inner-west. The lights are out, there’s a softness to this old and very weird place. I’ve given up trying to start conversations with the owner. I figure, if he doesn’t want to talk, why force it?


Nicole from eleven magazine emails me. We’d made a tentative arrangement to do an interview today, but I feel too stressed to be able to sit still and talk about the project. Cheekily, I ask if she can come over anyway and do me a favour. I need folders from Officeworks – cardboard envelope folders for my blog printouts. And I need someone to get them for me while I stand on the border and wait. Nicole agrees to help me out.

It feels a bit odd to be doing this. I mean, yesterday I left for Camperdown. So why can’t I just pop over to Officeworks in Lewisham. What difference does it make?

I can’t explain. But that’s what happens.

On her way back from Officeworks, Nicole picks me up outside the shut-down fruit store. There’s good news and bad news. The folders look great, and they’re cheaper than expected. But my credit card has fallen down into a crevice between the plastic compartments under her car stereo. Nicole rummages around. I fetch a screwdriver, tongs, a coathanger. Eventually, the card emerges. Nicole races off, and I promise her an interview, sometime soon…

At one pm, I have an appointment with someone. But for the life of me, I can’t remember who, nor anything about it…

At eight, Bec and I get Indian take away. I ask the nice fellow behind the counter for some plastic containers, the kind they put the mint sauce into. I want to use them for making small flans for the exhibition on Saturday. He gives me about thirty. I ask how much I owe him. After a moment to reflect, he replies, “Just keep coming back!”

In the evening, I phone up Louise, who coaches me through the production of a large scale word document, using the “master document” function. This is so boring it’s almost putting me to sleep thinking about it now. At three am, a “book” emerges, weighing in at 141 pages and 85,000 words… [You can download it here, PDF 1.9MB]

Bec sits on the couch sifting through hundreds of Petersham photographs to make a powerpoint presentation. She chooses a handy 200. It should be noted, Bec is a photography curator. I trust her choices implicitly.


I set up a style-sheet so that each blog entry can be neatly printed out without any fuss. These printouts will go up on the walls of the gallery.

Vanessa comes around and sets to work making mini flans. Lisa offers to help, and I send her shopping for tea, sugar, coffee, milk. We all sit in the kitchen together, gluing labels onto my folders for the exhibition. You cannot set a value on moral support of this kind.

At sunset, we sit down to watch 1001 nights on the internet. Vanessa has written today’s story. It’s about the perils of trying to cross Parramatta Road, and the nation of Malta seems to figure pretty importantly too. Barbara’s mouth rolls up and spits out the words, especially when she reaches this sentence:

grubby sticky tape wrapped around telegraph poles and bus tickets in the gutter and flattened cigarette butts.

We all hurry along. We’re due at the bowlo by six, and I’ve still got to find my Filipino guest artists…

on being on time

Sunday 27 May 2006:
The ‘sham has sprung a leak. Gradually, the edges of my boundary are beginning to fade. I’m sitting in the Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Camperdown, writing these words. Until May 31st, my world will consist of Petersham plus Chrissie Cotter, and the corridor of land I walk between the two. Then, on the first of June (my thirty-first birthday), I will return to my life “as normal”.

It’s been a heck of a few days. The hurtle towards deadlines has left me with little time for blogging. Or rather, running around trying to organise the dinner-slideshow at the bowlo (Friday night) and the gallery launch (Saturday arvo) made time something of an rival. Time was my nemesis. I was in “a race against time”. In trying so hard to “be on time” I couldn’t quite bring myself to really “be in time” – to sit here at the screen and write. To sit here, no matter how long it takes, until the writing is done.

But the exhibition is up, many thanks to the generosity of my good friends, who gave their precious time to help stick about 400 pieces of A4 paper (with 1600 tiny blobs of blutack) on the walls of the gallery; to make a couple of dozen mini-flans, and homebaked cookies for the afternoon tea; to wash cups and serve coffee; to lend me equipment; and to generally be good sports about my inability to pull it all together alone.

Big big thanks to Bec, Lisa, Vanessa, Anna, Keg, Lucas, Dodo, Jessie. And a mighty cheer to Fiona, Emily and Lisa from the Bowlo, and to our guests Alfredo and Isabel, for making Friday night run so smoothly.

having an experience

shoe poster

I drift inexorably towards my conclusion. I trust less and less the prediction made by Caroline the op-shop lady. Back in early April, she assessed my personality, and judged that I “function better by working towards a deadline”. But here we are, with only two days to go ’til my exhibition, and I’m still blundering about like Mr Ryder, the pianist in Ishiguro’s novel The Unconsoled.

The entire time I’ve been working on the ‘sham, I’ve been reading this novel. And I feel like it’s had some powerful yet subtle influence over my writing, not to mention the way I move through time and space in the suburb. In The Unconsoled, Mr Ryder arrives in an unspecified European city. He’s a famous pianist, and is booked in to do some sort of presentation on “Thursday night”. Trouble is, everyone seems to know what he’s supposed to be do except Ryder himself. Worse still, it appears he’s agreed to countless minor appointments between “now” and Thursday – none of which he can recall. He rushes, flustered and irritated, to make each meeting, only to be waylaid en route by someone who has been expecting him somewhere else. In fact, he should have been at that encounter more than half an hour ago. And so on. Each journey bifurcates, and every subsequent path is itself diverted… After four hundred and thirty seven pages (I’m not yet at the end!) Ryder still hasn’t arrived at Thursday night.

In novel time, less than three days have passed. But for me, it’s been more than fifty days. And although most of my days in Petersham have been nowhere near as frustrating as Ryder’s, to a certain extent I share his feeling, that I’m not quite master of my own destiny. And even more: the absurd sense that the looming deadline is somehow rather meaningless. In my case, all the more so, since my exhibition is going to take place in Camperdown. And still, I allow time to wash over me, moving me closer to the end.
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a little Portugal

Finally, the moons line up and I’m in the right place at the right time. Manuel only comes in on Tuesdays to the travel agency. The girl at the desk says he’s definitely the right person to talk to if I want to hear a Portuguese story. Manuel is attending to what looks like an old and loyal customer. I wait for a little while, thumbing through the package tours to New Zealand and Tasmania. These tours seems uniquely unappealing to me. Thousands of dollars blown in a fortnight where your every move is circumscribed. And what’s more, you have to pay a “singles supplement” as a punishment for not having a travelling companion!

Manuel waves me over. “So, why me?” he teases. “Why me?” And before I can answer, he launches into a long joke about a famous football player who also asks “Why me?”, when there’s a stadium full of eighty thousand fans, not to mention twenty two footballers and two referees. I wont spoil it by revealing the punchline. If you pass by on a Tuesday you might be able to hear it for yourself.
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a short trip to Marrickville

map of route to visit lester at IWACC

With a slight shudder, I carried my body across the intersection of Livingstone and Frazer, and into Marrickville. I looked up and saw one of those white stripes left in the sky by an aeroplane. There was a stillness in the air, and the light seemed sharply focussed. The day was warm, I was out of the house by ten. I hate to say it, but it felt good to leave Petersham.
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When I woke up this morning I made a list of things to be sorted by Friday and Saturday for the dinner and exhibition. There are a fair few, to say the least. Complicated, of course, by the fact that the exhibition is happening out of my boundaries, and I haven’t even seen the gallery recently…

And here I am still aimlessly wandering around meeting people and walking dogs. It might (!) be time to get down to business.

I’m just off to meet the visiting Filipino artists…more soon…