situationist flan

Just after two, Reuben arrived. I was checking my lettuces. Some of them have been eaten by snails. They’re so vulnerable in that way.

I made us coffee, and while we were drinking it, I proposed we make the flan/pudim which has been the focus of much speculation lately.

Inside the cardboard box was a tiny sachet containing a pinkish powder. We emptied it into a bowl, added what seemed to be a lot of sugar, then a drizzle of milk to make a runny paste. Immediately, the powder mixture turned the colour of egg yolk. But at least it dissolved pretty well. When the milk was hot enough on the stove, Reuben trickled in the paste while I stirred and took a photo. It began to look like custard, and took on a kind of eggy smell. We poured the resulting solution into two round takeaway containers, whacked em in the fridge, and went out for a walk.

I had a few chores to complete. We picked up Wolfie from next door and went down to Wenchai Publication to check on my exhibition flyers. They wont be ready til Monday. On Maria Street, we walked past the crazy cat lady house. Jane and I first checked this place out last week, and I wanted to have another stickybeak. The cat lady’s next door neighbour was out on her porch. She told us there were forty cats living in that house. The cats seemed really happy, a jumble of tabbies and the occasional ginger, no doubt all inter-related, snoozing together on a couch. A massive platter with remnants of catfood stood on the cement outside the door. The neighbour said, “I like animals, but they shit all up and down the street.” Wolfie was getting a bit restless with all these cats. He started to growl at one sleeping in the back of a ute on the other side of the road. We said our goodbyes.

I wanted to show Jarvie Street to Reuben. My spatial memory is rather poor, so of course, I got us lost along the way. Finally we found it. “Wow, this place feels special…” he said. I told him the story about how they have big Christmas parties here, where the whole street comes out. And Natalie’s story, where she mistakenly jumped into the passenger seat of her neighbour’s car, thinking it was a cab (after that, she and the neighbour became friends, and they drove around together regularly). I showed Reuben the hedge place where I’d first met Neil and his mother. And next door, there he was! Neil was chatting with his neighbour, David, in the yard with all the soft toys strung up. We waved hello. “Hey!” Neil said, “how’s your project going?” I told him I’d drop around an exhibition flyer when I get them back from the printers.

At the Jarvie dog-leg we stopped momentarily while I told Reuben about the old man whose project is to walk all the streets of Sydney. On his website, there’s a photo of him in this exact location (scroll down to see it…)

We wandered up some streets I’d never seen before, and found a dead TV dumped on its side, a mural depicting Petersham as a pastoral paradise linked to the city by train, some home made bits of signage. As we emerged from Allans Avenue onto New Canterbury, I had a moment of dread, that our meandering had led us outside the boundaries and into the foreign soil of Lewisham. But no fear, we were safe.

allans ave

On the tiles under the shop window of the second hand place on New Canterbury is sprayed the command: “NO BEGGING”. I took a photo while Reuben went into the Portuguese deli for some cornbread.

As we rounded the corner onto West Street, Reuben began telling me about the concept of the “dérive” (it’s French for “drifting”). It’s a situationist thing, to do with “psychogeography”. Apparently the dérive is a kind of wandering which involves letting the urban environment influence you emotionally, rather than having any kind of fixed itinerary. I felt a bit embarrassed not to know about this already, but well, there’s a first time for everything, eh? It does sound like a key text for my project… Apparently, dériving is best done in small groups of two or three, letting the conversation be a journey too, which interweaves with and influences the physical journey…

On the north side of the tracks, we turned up Fisher’s Reserve. A beautiful hand painted letterbox with a hippo and a stork. A man (who we assumed to be the letterbox artist) was visible inside his front room. We waved to him mutely, pointed down at the box, and gave him a big thumbs up. He returned with a grin and a thumbs up of his own. Around the corner, a slumped beanbag, another dead TV.

By the time we got home, the flans had set. They were solid and wobbly as jelly. I pulled one out of the fridge, and sliced around the edge to encourage it to pop out. It schlepped onto the plate, retaining the shape of the takeaway container. Two spoons, and in we dug. And you know, it wasn’t bad.

we got through it...

[ps. Reuben forgot to take his cornbread home. I gave it to Mayhem.]

6 thoughts on “situationist flan

  1. Mick

    Man, that old guy who walks the streets of Sydney is hilarious. He takes great pleasure in finding urban peculiarities.

    I love the drift concept. Didn’t think to make the observation between it and your project. One of my favourite situationist proposals was for greenways across a city that were equal in number to roads and interlaced with them in such a way that you could walk to any place in a city and only ever walk on grass,

  2. Caroline


    There is another crazy cat house in Petersham, on the same street that I used to live on. The house that I lived in had an interesting (aka dubious) history. Drop me a line if you would like me to take you on an excursion. I haven’t noticed that street on your blog, yet. Even though you are probably completely snowed at the moment!

  3. Bec the housemate

    I like the photographs you took on the walk with Reuben. I think your photography momentarily improved while Reuben was with you exerting his curatorial influence. Your muse for a day.

    I think you should show some of your pics at your exhibition. Are you going to do that or is it a bit too “art object” for you?

    I can help with getting the printing done if you like?

  4. shortleftleg Post author

    thanks for the compliment bec! what do you suggest? i suppose i’d been thinking to have a “slideshow” continuously projecting on a loop, of photos taken during the project. do you think it’s more interesting to do hard copy printouts?

  5. Bec the housemate

    I do like the series like “holding things in my hand” etc. I think that the derive has great potential as a printed series too.

    I think slideshows of the walks will be good as they have a natural time’s-arrow feel about them.

    I guess it depends on whether you want to risk shifting the focus from the printed blog, as folks will definitely look at the printed work as art, like a product of the residency. The slideshow may be more in keeping with your blogger intentions.


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