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How Good is Fragility

By

  • Albert Rex, RMIT

Description

This project takes the form of a series of small representations or ‘scenes’ which will be installed along the Swanston St. Tram corridor in the Melbourne CBD at intervals that guarantee city-goers will notice them with regularity.

These scenes draw on the semiotic character of the Australian interior to help prepare Melbournians for this continent’s imminent collective reckoning with (1) the Climate Crisis and (2) the – to be diplomatic – shakiness of the legitimacy of State sovereignty in Australia.

In this way the cultural and ecological resilience of this continent’s interior will be a resource near at hand to aid us in building informed and measured responses to the crises which look likely to be thrown up by the turbulent times ahead. Read more Below:

Key Features

1

The first half the 21st century will play witness to a climate reckoning.

This will inevitably result in sweeping changes in how we engage with landscape, but here I focus on two changes that I contend will have particular impact on this continent.

These are (1) the inevitable shunning of indulgence in regular international air travel and (2) a move away from widespread international trade in consumer goods by freight.

2

With reduced access to these technologies the Australian populous will have no choice but to re-engage with the geological fact of inhabiting the most arid continent on earth, as well as the geographic reality of being situated so very far from the traditions and institutions that we continue to draw on for our guiding armature.

However, I believe that this re-engagement offers us enormous opportunity to re-frame our understanding of them away from the incredible agoraphobia and insecurity of our invader forebears and toward a reading that can actually support us in negotiating the undeniably rocky terrain which lies ahead.

3

In working toward this, I propose a series of interventions throughout the Melbourne CBD which draw on the semiotic character of the Australian interior to help prepare us for this continent’s imminent collective reckoning with (1) the Climate Crisis and (2) the – to be diplomatic – shakiness of the legitimacy of State sovereignty over this continent.

4

These interventions will take the form of small representations or ‘scenes’ which will be installed along thoroughfares throughout the CBD at intervals that guarantee city-goers will notice them with regularity.

Their positioning, however, will ensure that, like a familiar face that flits for a second into view on a busy street, a viewer – busied in their own life-world – will rarely actually be able to pin-point what exactly they saw or where exactly they saw it.

5

In this way, an understanding that continental Australia’s arid interior actually exists will begin to bleed into the collective subconscious of our city.

When exposed to images or texts about the interior, anxiety will gradually morph to familiarity, and when inevitably confronted with the great questions of our time: (1) the Climate Crisis and (2) The legitimacy of State sovereignty, the cultural and ecological resilience of this continent’s interior will be a resource near at hand to aid us in building informed and measured responses.

I acknowledge the support I have received in the development of this project from the Department of Landscape Architecture at RMIT University.

I would like particularly to acknowledge the support and advice of my tutors Brent Greene and Jock Gilbert.

I also acknowledge that I undertook this work on the unceded lands of the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nations.

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