This is a piece I wrote for the 'Renew Docklands' exhibition opening night, way back at the beginning of the year. It was a lot to take in just listening, so I thought I'd post it. Enjoy. x
Everyone says 'Wasteland'
That's what they say. And who can blame them?
For me it's like Disneyland. That polished secure blanket comfort of a manicured space. At once safe and unreal. A comforting unfamiliar. That same feeling that crawled up my bones when I first set foot on Melbourne soil. Lygon St, 2007. Taxi from the airport. Girl by my side. Five months we'd waited. Apart. Until the trip I took landed me square in a world I had to try to make my own. A sense of security in the nighttime calm of the tram tracked street and the Victorian facades.
I want to talk a bit about what it is to me - Docklands...
It's come and go, come and go. It's a liminal space. The in-between. The lacuna. It goes back generations. Centuries in concept.
They come bearing gifts. It's all containment. They leave again with the reciprocals - something brought and something sent. Those not in the know, know next to nothing of either destination. It is the postie on a larger scale. That's all.
There's romance in all of this. Exotic goods from far off lands. And all we have to share in return goes back the other way. We, I, forget sometimes that there is a human element to it all. In my mind, watching on some sort of mental double speed time lapse, it is simply crates and containers and cranes. Import, export, goods goods goods. I forget the guy who ordered, for business or for pleasure. I forget the man on the other end. He might be a she. I don't know. I forget the request and the offer at the heart of it. And how it becomes, itself, the heart of all else - growing our homestead as we contribute to the growing of another.
It's the invisible transaction rendered in multicoloured metal weighing tens of tonnes and straining under the hinging weight of our collective need.
What's underneath it, though? For something like tonight? The search for metaphor or something just beyond the reach of the stevedores and shipping and the sales and the sea.
Its central function ticking away in the background. We have tried - some of us - to make it into something it was never meant to be. It may yet be that something, but it remains clear as a scabbing sore that it was most certainly not meant to be . . . This.
We are shoehorning.
Back to the security. Look at what it's become. It drags up memories from my childhood - some old Irish lyric - "I can no longer stay / and watch the new glass cages / spring up along the quay"
I'm new here. 2007, as I said. And so my Melbourne is something different to what is currently thrust in our faces from here; the sidelines of our city. I can't hate Docklands, though. It's the liminal that I'm drawn to; the history I've described; the de facto, a priori, raison d'être. But from there they've tried to make something new. My mind rejects it. This shoeshined aesthetic. My heart breaks for those who've thrown their fiscal weight behind it. Only to lose on the wheel.
The wheel. Itself for so long a monument to the in-between. Built but static. Shining in the Melbourne sometimes sun. Gloating over the too much money of the docks and berths. Sighing over empty shop fronts and scattered tourists struggling with one way streets and Apple Maps.
I wanted to draw links. Docklands. Coming and going.
My time in Australia. Becoming a citizen. Going home. Coming home. This place is enchanting to me because I haven't the deep-seated Melburnian aversion to it. To hate it would be disingenuous. Like I said, I can't find it in my heart to do so, not all of it. I find myself latching on to certain elements. The to and fro. Its existence on the fringe. The conceited effort to tap into what has grown and flourished organically elsewhere, and the cynic's certainty that that will never work.
In this attempt to draw links, I couldn't help but touch on the intimate. The sexual. Docking. Exchanging goods. The secrets in the manifest. If I bend it right, it is the shape of my time here. Coming, going. Coming, going. I have lived in that space. The in-between. Docking in a strange port.
These seven years have felt at times for all the world like some perverted shore leave.