Alba turned up bang on 1pm to see the anarchic harmony left over from the opening night. She immediately had the desire to tidy it. So Astrid and Alba set about composing the first inhabitable and domestic iteration of the room. The still-to-be-constructed Ikea couch swapped places with the massage table (which was to ably perform the role of a lounge room table). The sideboard cabinet (which having been put on its side to become a display cabinet for Lizzie’s red shoes) was returning to its more natural horizontal axis on a sidewall. I asked Astrid and Alba what their compositional intention was and they said they were trying to fill up what they perceived to be a bareness on the white walls. They tore out colour drawings from a book left in the space and this became a wordless tableau of fairy tales. Underneath this they composed two poems, Dick & Cockchafer, cut-out from the same book. Another compositional idea of A&A’s was to do with the creation of inhabitable space, to have open space for easy movement and to make the space more inviting to people. Various scraps of things scattered on the floor were removed because they were not considered to be contributing to the space. The car bumper bars that someone had found the night before in the alley behind the mechanics were immediately singled out as lacking value or purpose in the composition of the room, but nobody felt strongly enough to haul them back. Astrid’s compositional obsession, as evidenced by this, was the yellowness of the primary school chairs.
While all the composing was going on, two of Zanny’s students James and Claire arrived, contributed and left. James found the cardboard dynamite that turned up on the opening night. Claire had brought a book she found at the bus stop on the way called How To Be In The Right Place At The Right Time (The Actual Formula): The Key To Human Destiny, by Zeitgeist (of all people!). She stuck photocopied sheets from the book on the wall with masking tape. James found a coat-hanger to drape his dynamite from. For most of this period we had been listening to a commercial radio station that was totally tedious. So I went over to the radio with the intention of changing to Koori radio, but got stuck on ABC Classic FM and had a real moment by the open doorway, which I wrote about in this post. Earlier in the afternoon Eli had come by on her way to work and had very kindly brought some fresh juice from the fruit store across the road.
We’ve all been really happy with the timelapse videos, and many thanks to Tom Spiers for making that happen, but actually the most pure moment of joy I had came from slowing the timelapse down and looking at each frame. At this stage the webcam was taking a photo every 30 seconds and there was a series of frames with Astrid and Alba in various positions in their task of composing the room. And there is this one frame where a strange creature in a blue jumper turns up. This creature is Fred. In this frame you can see him leaning over inquisitively and looking at one of the juices that Eli had brought. In the next frame, Fred has vanished. 13 frames later, that is, six and half minutes later, Fred is back with a large cup of a juice and a happy look on his face. If you know Fred then the narrative that the timelapse reveals – creature sees juice, creature wants juice, creature gets juice, happy creature – is just perfect. He bellowed with laughter when I showed him the frames and said that reveals a lot. Just before Fred arrived and promptly got himself a juice, one of Zanny’s students and her boyfriend (I think) turned up. After taking some photos their focus was fixed upon the puzzle that had been given to Push & Pull by my friend Amy. As you can see in the timelapse they are working away at their puzzle for some ten seconds or more. Ten seconds in this particular timelapse video is two hours. I mentioned to them at one point that not all the pieces were in the puzzle but they were intent on getting the four edges of the picture done, leaving the middle for somebody even more intent than themselves. They got 99% of the puzzle frame done over the two hours, after which they stuck what they had done on the wall with glue and wrote in the empty middle space we give up in letters made from puzzle pieces.
Close inspection of the timelapse reveals that Fred occupied various reading positions (you can be guaranteed he was reading this book by Bruno Latour). Our new radio station of choice was Radio National and during this time they played a program with a bunch of religious chants, including some amazing Gregorian chants. As the timelapse shows, the Gregorian chants lulled Fred into a nap on the green couch. When the chants ended he soon woke up and went home, taking Astrid with him. I later found out that the program we had been listening to was part of this wonderful radio series called The Nerve, produced by this guy Jowi Taylor for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio 2. As my friend Aden would say: It’s killer. By now it was late afternoon and Yasmin arrived home (her home being the gallery) and seemed to bring the cold with her. I sat outside with her as she smoked a cigarette and we talked with our backs to the traffic. A local man with red hair, heavily-wrinkled skin and a walking frame came up to us to inquire about the space. He didn’t know and didn’t seem to be interested in the exhibition, he just wanted to ask what the space was and Yasmin politely explained. He asked how business was going and Yasmin politely explained that there was no money being made here. He couldn’t quite grasp this, since he said he had always done things in his life which made money, although never lots of it. Then he moved off towards the furniture dealer next door. Later I saw his frame move past the Locksmith window. Soon after Frank the furniture-dealer from next door came into the gallery. He has lovely bushy eyebrows. He asked some questions about what we were doing and I asked him if he wanted to do some push pull but it became clear that he wanted to get something off his chest. It turns out the man with the frame had annoyed Frank, I think by swearing in his shop, and Frank had gotten angry and ordered him out. Having said what he wanted he went back to his shop. I saw the man with the frame on the other side of Botany road when I went to buy a pie. It seems he was paying everyone a visit that afternoon. After my pie I went back to get a roadsign that I scoped out earlier in the day. As I nonchalantly swooped to lift the sign of its legs and make away into the darkening park a worker with a take-away coffee immediately confronted me. Where are you taking that? he asked. My brain immediately went into naughty-child mode and searched for a reasonable lie. But what can you say in a situation like this, oh um I was just moving the sign a little closer to the roadworks so it’s more clear to pedestrians what the danger is. So I just told him the truth, well actually I’m just involved in the exhibition down the road where we are collecting things off the street. The man softened noticebly and said, gee, thanks for being honest. Are you going to bring it back? I said, sure I’ll bring it back when the exhibition is done. He looked like he had other things worrying him and so let me go, saying a couple of times, make sure you bring it back.
Around this time another one of Zanny’s students showed up. Leigh, I think her name was, was very tentative to begin with, but after talking with me for a while about how structured she was, she got going and carefully changed Astrid and Alba’s domestic composition in quite a few significant ways. In between her push pulling she was directing one of her friends to the gallery, who kept calling back because Leigh was unintentionally directing her to drive up Botany Road, a one-way street. Eventually her friend found it and asked me if this was my show. I said no, this is your show, which got a muted response, but she also relaxed into the space after awhile and made some contributions. In the early evening now, and two more of Zanny’s students turned up. The day would have been much less eventful without Zanny’s clever trick to make being involved in Push Pull an assessment task! These two carefully observed the scene for some time before taking greatly to the spirit of the work. They didn’t make any structural changes to the space but they made some very quirky and playful ornamental additions to it, including a piece of masking tape that ran across the floor, over and inside two boxes, over a yellow chair and up the other wall where it finished in a masking-tape square in which one of them wrote my side of the room. Just before closing four more people turned up, two more students’ of Zanny’s and their mates. The two mates stood around uncomfortably for a while before they too relaxed into the space and seemed happy at least to have visited, if not inspired enough to move anything. Just before they left Lucas arrived in his striking blue wool coat to see how things had changed. He said, wow it’s really domesticated in here. The last frame in the timelapse is of me carrying a ladder towards the camera. It must have taken me less that 30 seconds to climb the ladder and press stop on the recording.