Running Out


Well this is it folks. Only an hour and a half to go.

The last few days I’ve been traipsing back and forth from the gallery to Petersham, using Parramatta Road as if it were the corridor of my house.

Remind me to tell you about a project by Vito Acconci from the early 1970s, in which he moved all the contents from one room of his apartment in Manhattan, into a gallery a hundred or so blocks away. Whenever he needed to use something from that room, he walked all those blocks to fetch it. Whenever he finished using the thing, he walked all those blocks to put it back. The city (from my understanding of his project) became a dramatically stretched extension of his house. (He later went on to work as an architect, but that’s another story).

[Actually, remind me to tell you about other projects that have inspired Bilateral Petersham. I don’t sit in a historical vacuum cooking up great ideas from primordial soup (whatever that is).* No siree, I have many footnotes to add. (I’ll get around to that, um, soon.) Not least of which is Mr Allan Kaprow, may he rest in peace (sadly, he died recently, in fact, a few days after the start of this project).]

Speaking of Parramatta Road as a corridor… At the opening of my Chrissie Cotter show (as promised) there was a border walk to the old edge of the ‘sham: namely, Johnston’s Creek.

In 1949, Petersham reluctantly handed the reins to Marrickville, which became THE local Municipality (more or less the same idea as Sydney City Council absorbing South Sydney a few years back). But until then, Petersham was the big council, and it extended to cover Dulwich Hill to the west, and Stanmore to the East. The boundary was the edge of Camperdown, at Johnston’s Creek.

For those of you familiar with Sydney, the creek runs underneath Parramatta Road, alongside McDonald’s (the horrible late night McDonald’s with all the rev-heads).

Anyway, instead of requiring everyone to be in the same place at the same time, and me “running” the tour like The Good Shepherd, I made a map and sent folks off in small groups, to explore at their own pace. I made a few suggestions for what folks could do along the way:

  • whistle
  • collect perfectly shaped red autumn leaves
  • take 5 photographs (ask to borrow Lucas’ camera)
  • count how many cars pass you on Parramatta Road
  • take rag and “brasso” and polish the plaque at Johnston’s Creek
  • close your eyes and try to imagine Johnston’s Creek as a “creek” – animals? plants? Sounds?
  • Cross at the lights and check out the row of empty shops next to Johnston’s Creek. Find out what is the future plan for this site
  • come back to gallery, blog your experience, drink tea, eat cake, shake Lucas by the hand and wish him well…
  • Give your ideas for social change to the mayor himself (he’s friendly)

Alex and Michelle went off, borrowing my camera, and returned with this set of shots (more than five!)

Alex burst through the door – “the Shammies are playing!” he said.
The who?

The Shammies, Petersham’s rugby union club (one of the oldest in Sydney) were taking on Burwood at Camperdown Oval. How’s that for good luck? I raced out with him and we stood there on the side of the field, watching rucks and throw-ins. Alex has the ability to make me feel kinda blokey, in a good way.

Our team was receiving a drubbing, but they clearly had the better uniform.

As for the other photos in the Alex and Michelle set, I have no idea…I didn’t have time to hear their stories…Hopefully they’ll tune in here and tell us all about it. The tree, the house, the car, the painting

Mike and Louise trooped off together, and returned with this report.

About five, Sam the mayor showed up. He’d been off playing soccer, and apologised for his lateness. I told him not to worry, we hadn’t expected him til then anyhow. There wasn’t really a core audience to make a formal “launch” speech to, so we gathered up the stragglers and went on our own border walk. About eight of us in total, with the mayor.

Along the way, Sam talked about various sites, industrial buildings slated for redevelopment into apartments and so on. We reached the old border, and looked down into the creek, now reduced to a concreted drain with a drizzle of dirty runoff.

I asked if he would do an Acknowledgement of Country for us. I remembered (from Art in the Park) that Sam’s Acknowledgement is quite long and thorough. He not only refers to the land belonging to the Cadigal people of the Eora nation, but also celebrates their acheivements and the work they have done for generations in protecting and maintaining the land.

Standing on the footpath, a meaty McDonald’s smell wafting over us, cars roaring past, the light rapidly failing…It was hard to imagine anyone having custodianship over such things. It was hard to imagine being able to really love this place. Like the garbage littering the carpark, this is land to use and chuck. Poor old Johnston’s Creek.

*I am certain this is a misuse of the term “primordial soup” but I’m going to let it stand, as I think it sounds juicy.

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