Artists document what’s happening

Memory & Moment – The History of a White Hoarding comprised works by local artists Nicholas Beckett, Mex Purcell and Catherine Skipper. The “happening” at the Orchard Gallery on June 10 included artworks (a video, various photographs and paintings) and documented art-making in the vicinity of the former Rachel Forster Hospital.

Nicholas Beckett, Catherine Skipper and Mex Purcell with some of their work Photo: Andrew Collis
Nicholas Beckett, Catherine Skipper and Mex Purcell with some of their work Photo: Andrew Collis

A statement read aloud by the artists invited reflection and participation:

“We hope that you will view the video created by Mex, Walk on the Wildside, and locate the various artefacts and art-making Mex has recorded and archived. The juddering is intentional, reflecting both pace and observation on the countless strolls Mex has made, alone and in company with Catherine, around the hoarding along Pitt Street and down Albert Street (or along Albert and down Pitt). Passers-by are welcome to take Mex’s objects and artworks away with them, and do so frequently. Sometimes, they even return them.

“You can also locate the artefacts and art-making through the photographic presentation by Nicholas Beckett in which he has recorded and archived responses to the existence of the white hoarding as a street gallery. Many of the artworks are framed and screwed into the hoarding, creating the impression of a formal gallery space trendily dilapidated …

“In addition, you can see the reproduction of stencils, also recorded and archived by both Mex and Nicholas. Originally motivated by the example of street artist Alex Grilanc, the art-maker made use of the hoarding to protest the demolition of the Waterloo Estate, not only the destruction of buildings and natural environment but also the destruction of a community and a culture.

“The relic of one painting which seemed to arouse savage anger in a passerby, the evidence recorded in Mex’s walk-around, originally bore the words, “You never promised me a rose garden” and in tiny script at the lower edge, “Or even a jacaranda tree”. (The jacaranda tree has a history of its own, soon to be exhibited.)

“We thank our friend, the late Ross Smith, who knew by heart the history of the Rachel Forster Hospital, and who, the day before he died, inspired the organisation of this ‘happening’. Ross was to give a short talk this evening. Briefly, the present site was abandoned completely in 2003 and now is in an impressive state of aesthetic decay.

“We thank Kaymet Constructions, developers of the Rachel Forster Hospital site, for reluctantly and temporarily providing the white hoarding upon which we have inscribed, archived – and continue to inscribe and archive now that it is a black hoarding – our claim to public space.

“The white hoarding managed to connect these three ‘flaneurs’, a curious 19th-century French term but culturally persistent, meaning something vague and attractive like ‘strollers along the city streets … passionate urban wanderers, critiquing the disenfranchisement of the individual by corporate capitalism’.”

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