Biennial Lab artists, team and friends were welcomed to country by Wurundjeri Elder, Colin Hunter Jr. For those who reside or pass through the settlement of Melbourne, Uncle Colin reminds us that we’re living on Wurundjeri land, and that it is the responsibility of all to care for the land. His smoking ceremony wafted eucalyptus smoke through the crowd that was gathered, cleansing the space in readiness for the week’s activities.
Biennial Lab artists Field Theory commenced their 6.25 day broadcast wearing clothes that were purchased at the market—lurid, neon peach tracksuits, racing jackets, text-emblazoned leggings. Jason Maling and Sarah Rodigari started the broadcast by explaining their rules for 9000 Minutes. Sarah compared the importance of instilling rules in the project, to eating a block of chocolate—“You have a block of chocolate, and you could eat the whole thing but you’d fall ill. So you set a rule saying you can only eat one piece, and of course, you’ll eat half the block. But the rule allows you to realise moderation.” The rules are stated here. Their broadcast plays throughout market, including in the Biennial Lab hub on Victoria Street, and people from within the market can make requests. A guy called Reza from one of the stalls in the Market kept making song requests, entertaining all those who were listening in.
Monday is a non-trading, quiet day for the Queen Victoria Market with stallholders preparing for the week ahead. The sound of Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine’s installation, Out in the Open, resonates through Shed A as metal boxes radiate frequencies related to the artists’ animation. The installation’s sound component mimics what’s on screen. It’s great to watch this film during the quiet moments of the market as the sound overcomes you, or commiserate over protagonist, George’s story and his multiple stalls. Who does the heartbeat belong to? Whose bones are they? Artist, Isobel Knowles tells me that one scene in the film, where protagonist George waltzes with shoes with no body attached, was intended to be light-hearted, but after realising the scene, the collaborators burst into tears.
Tweed Heads-based artist Hiromi Tango has started creating her heaving installation, Wrapped, around existing infrastructure of A Shed. Building over time, the installation also includes parts that Tango had freighted to Melbourne to impart stories from other places. What comes out is often deeply personal, and Tango’s ‘wrapping’ creates a comfort zone for those participating. It will evolve during the week, and the artist might carry the stories of the Queen Victoria Market with her to another context.
The night before opening (Sunday evening), SIBLING’s architectural folly Over Obelisk was graffitied with one simple word—‘No’. The folly encases the John Batman obelisk, a monument erected during the downturn of the Gold Rush in Victoria, as a way to instill civic pride in the settler population. The plaque on the obelisk itself reads:
Born at Parramatta N.S.W. 1800
Died at Melbourne 6th May 1839
He entered Port Phillip Heads
29th May 1835
As leader of an expedition which
He had organized in Launceston V.D.L To form a settlement and founded one
On the site of Melbourne then unoccupied
SIBLING’s folly obscures the monument, reading “do you acknowledge that the historical events referred to by this monument are inaccurate?”. The folly also features an approximate translation of this text in Woiwurrung language developed together with Wurundjeri peoples. SIBLING's intervention asks the public to question not only the legitimacy of the words inscribed on it, but the ways in which colonial markers have influenced how colonisation has (and does) thrive throughout Melbourne and Australia. It was only in the 90s that the City of Melbourne consulted with Wurundjeri peoples to have a plaque attached to the monument, where it is attached today, acknowledging that the words on the monument are false. SIBLING’s folly also implicates non-Indigenous viewers with the use of mirrored perspex—at one moment, it’s a harsh and direct implication, and at the other, it allows for more nuanced discussion which can effectively lead to change. After their folly was graffitied, a member of SIBLING met with the person who had graffitied the monument and discussed why they had written ‘no’ on the monument. One of the purposes of SIBLING’s intervention is to activate dialogues on the contested histories of the site, and of the ways in which site is inscribed with meaning through monument. In this instance of public defacing and subsequent conversation around the role of the Batman obelisk, the work has already been successful. To read more on Batman’s Treaty, go here.
The day wound up and Field Theory went on throughout the night, speaking with Timothy Moore (SIBLING) on architecture and town planning, (he gave a great tip of going to the Polish Deli and asking for the ‘barrel sauerkraut’), and to a medium about ghosts, spirituality, Draculas (the chain, themed cabaret/restaurant) and the Queen Victoria Market. A pertinent way to end the day.
- Sarah Werkmeister