the sound wall on the yarra men's shed is the culmination of two and a half months of regular listening at the collingwood housing estate. it's a hand-written façade of every sound on the estate, covering the outer two walls of a weatherboard clad shed.
regular readers are probably aware of my ongoing listening practice - and may have popped over to the poorly-kept listening to the city blog to check out the listening i've been doing during the residency.
the locals and residents would see me pop up around the estate, standing for just 30 minutes at a time, usually with a camera in front of me, armed with headphones and a notebook. less ignored on the estate than i am in other areas of public space, i was often approached and asked what i was doing. if not in the moment, then afterwards. most residents were curious, assuming i was taking photos, singing, making a film clip or something creative. the most suspicious were always the powerful ones on the estate: the office of housing, security guards and heads of committees or organisations.
anyway, after the sound wall at electrofringe, i realised that it was a great idea for the project on the estate. there were a few false starts (namely some mis-communication between organisations resulting in the ordering of an embryonic wall to be removed).
anyway, the men's shed were delighted to be able to have the wall on their shed whilst they sorted out other creative opportunities. over a few weeks, i painted the corner walls of the shed black and the first text went up. it coincided withe the stages of organising the final event.
in the 10 days prior to the listening booth, i spent evenings writing up the wall. the weather was particularly crappy at that stage, so mornings were usually raining, clearing to a fine-ish evening. as i perched on my ladder, or stood and write, it was a good opportunity to talk to residents about what i've been doing over the last two months.
the wonderful thing was that locals, who had observed slow changes to the shed, had no problem asking me what it was all about. i had amazing discussions with cute somalian men, old addicts and alcoholics from the block, an old greek woman who was in the group who sang exe geia kaimene kosme to me early on (and who practiced reading english on the wall). mark from the men's shed spruiked about it with every chance he got.
everyone was stopping to read the words.
i still do like how i've managed to make a work that has different points of time and access.
people can walk past it quickly and take in a few quick words as they're walking past.
they can glimpse it from across the street, or right up close.
they can stand and read it whilst they wait to score, or whilst their sister gets the kids out of the car.
i think it's just that bit too big/long to take in during one whole sitting, but someone could if they wanted to.
but that also means that there's enough of it to keep you coming back.
and although it's all about language, it's not the language of power. it's phenomenal. most of the phrases are one, two or three words long. they're not complex, but not simplistic either. and i don't think that it's patronising.
there are parts on the wall that people know are theirs - some names, some phrases they said directly to me when i was on the wall and i think that people like it because they know the sounds.
most assumed there'd be more swearing on there than there was. i only edited out instances where the word 'cunt' flew around, which wasn't actually that often. people also suggested there'd be the sound of gunshots on there. i could honestly say that i never heard gunshots in my time. perhaps i wasn't there late enough, or early enough. nonetheless, it felt right that i was able to remind people that the prevailing sounds of the estate were still birds, traffic and kids playing.
one of the local lads told me he was illiterate and got me to read some of the lists out. i didn't do it very poetically, but he got the drift. he told me he could read a few words and could get by so he had stopped trying to learn to read. he said he knew how to read the word birds, so i showed him were they were on the wall and he could read that. later that evening i busted him reading the wall from the beginning.
i got a lot of comments on my handwriting too. i didn't really expect that, but i guess when people couldn't immediately relate to what was written, they were attracted to how it looked. and the time it took. i didn't even think about doing it another way, and now - having had that feedback - i probably never will.
people called the work beautiful. that rocks my world. i know beauty is a pretty old-fashioned idea, but if i can bring a sense of beauty to a place that is known for its fear, cynicism and ugliness, that's pretty amazing isn't it?
overall, it was a simple work, but something that i'm proud of.
if you're in the hood, it's on perry street, collingwood near the corner of hoddle street and will be in its current form until at least february.