Post Office Lane

Recently I  wandered through some of my film archives  for the Adelaide part of the  Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia project. I  was using it as a way to take a break from the grind of substantially reworking  the text for this Adelaide/Port Adelaide part of the book.  I am finding the reworking of the text  for each section  hard going,  as the early drafts of the  texts  have little coherence by way  of an argument.  It is a humbling experience.   

Whilst exploring the archives  I came across some b+w photos that I made for the Walking Adelaide project. I had completely  forgotten about these photos. These street views were usually photographed in colour and I'd forgotten  that  on occasions I was also photographing them in b + w at the same time. 

An  example is  this picture of Post Office Lane,  which  runs between Franklin and Waymouth Streets. I was standing in  Post Office Lane and the photo would have been made early in the morning. 

At the time the photo was made  I was photographing the  empty streets in the CBD.  My conception of Adelaide then  was that its street life was pretty minimal. The time period is roughly a decade ago when I was living in the CBD. 

old and new

I finally had some time to spend a few hours wandering around,  and photographing in,  the CBD last week. The CBD is rapidly changing from when I used  to live there.   

The few hours of  photographic drifting was between  seeing the Marek brothers  exhibition --- Dušan and Voitre Marek: Surrealists at sea -- at the South Australian Art Gallery and  receiving the 1st AstraZeneca vaccination at my GP clinic.   The Morrison Federal Govt has been very slack in acquiring and  rolling out the vaccine,  and my GP clinic has only been receiving very  limited doses per week. Sadly, exaggerated claims, spin and outright lies have covered over  the stuff up re the vaccine supply and roll out.   

Back to the exhibition.  There was a deep resistance to the foreign, the European, and modernism in   postwar Adelaide and  the migrant artists in the European diaspora were consigned to obscurity. They represent by-ways, irrelevancies, alternative pathways – all leading to dead ends in the central narrative of Australian art history. For instance, Sasha Grishin's recent Australian Art: A History  does not mention the Marek brothers,  despite their influence on the early paintings of Jeffrey Smart. 

The Surrealist at Sea  exhibition finally  recovers, and recognizes,  some of the forgotten modernism in Adelaide after the 1945. An example of this forgetting is Patrick McCaughey's  recent Strange Country: Why Australia Painting Matters, which  ignores Surrealism in Australia,  and doesn't mention the Marek brothers. McCaughey's text is  both Melbourne-centric and ignores how some modernists, such as the Marek brothers  worked across several artistic mediums and not just in the medium of painting. In the Marek brothers case it was painting, sculpture, prints, film,  photography and jewellery. 

archive: urban textures

I have started to walk around  photographing Adelaide's CBD after an absence of six years or so.The city has  become a  very different one during the negative consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. I realized that, in contrast, the pandemic has not substantially altered the way the retirees  living on the coast  in Victor Harbor and other coastal towns. The retirees go about their lives in a  similar way to what they were doing  in  pre-pandemic days.  They  can't travel overseas like they used to, or visit family interstate as easily as they once could.    

I also decided to revisit my photographic  archives as I am now quite  distant from the photographs I made when I was living in the CBD.  I can look at them as photos in themselves, as I cannot longer remember the experiences of that  photographic  moment.  I came across this abstract image of peeling bark in the Adelaide Parklands. It was made  whilst I was on a poodlewalk in Veal Gardens:

Walking through Veal Gardens was an integral part of one kind of  poodlewalk in the southern parklands.  For the poodles it was all about the possums in the trees.     

South Road: An experiment 1

I have often thought about walking along Adelaide's South Rd in the late afternoon taking photos of this urban stretch. I drive along this road  every time I go to and from Adelaide to Encounter Bay.   It looks interesting with all the different signs, architecture and colours. It's all mixed up, chaotic  jumble. 

However, South Rd is Adelaide's  main north south corridor and at peak hour it is  jammed with cars in the late afternoon. It is noisey and full of fumes,  and so I have  backed off walking along it. Breathing all those fumes  would not be  good for one's health.  Still, I find photographing South Rd in the late afternoon winter light intriguing.  

I  tried an experiment recently: --taking photos through  a car window. The opportunity arose  when we were returning from Blinman after being on a camel trek from Blinman to Lake Frome, as I was  sitting  in the back seat  and Suzanne was driving towards the Southern Expressway.   


I wound the  back window on the left  side of the car down. The basic concept was simple: to take a photo when the car stopped in traffic. It is unlike the Conceptual artists of the 1960s. They preconceived a conceptual project that they  then carries out with photographs. However,  photography was only useful or interesting to them insofar as it was instrumental in conveying or recording their ideas. These artists describe the photographs themselves as either brute information or uninflected documentation. The  1960s conceptual tradition  held photography as a specific medium  with its  rich history and formal conventions  at arm’s length. 

windows onto

This photo comes from when wandered  in   Rundle Mall in September,  2011.This was a time when I was still living in the CBD and so it easy for me to walk the city in Adelaide learning how we perceive the city,  how we imagine it, how we experience it.  The photos of  shop windows below are very different to the drone's aerial view of Rundle Mall; an aerial view  which has become pervasive in documentaries filmed outdoors.   

I was being a flaneur wandering from shop window to shop window, drifting  amongst the shoppers and office workers who were  going about their business in a very determined and focused  manner.  I was just drifting through the shopping precinct looking for something to photograph; drifting not hunting. The photo is different from Google's Street view which unfolds on the screen under our fingers. 

walking Bowden

I was able to walk around Bowden making some photos when I was  in Adelaide last week. I had several hours whilst I was waiting for Kayla to be clipped.  I quickly realised that  the  Bowden/Brompton that I lived in  during the 1980s has well and truely gone.  

 This old industrial /working class suburb is undergoing extensive urban renewal and redevelopment.  The factories and cottages have all gone--replaced by apartments in Bowden and townhouses in Brompton.  

I spend some time walking around the new redevelopment in Bowden--it is high density urban infill with a heritage precinct on the land of the old Brompton Gasworks. Bowden is envisioned as a vibrant, inner city destination. 

The empty land opposite where I used to live in Gibson Street is now Emu  Park whilst the Stobie poles have mosaics.  The boundary in Gibson St has gone, as has the house where I had a studio.   Conroys Small Goods is still there.  

Re-development of the Central Market precinct

The response to the  decline of automotive and manufacturing activity and employment in Adelaide has been  redevelopment to ensure a transition to  an  information and knowledge based economy.   Adelaide,  as  a middle ranking city in Australia, is lagging behind Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth  in becoming a knowledge city. Adelaide  struggles to develop the human capital (knowledge workers)  to underpin the knowledge economy and the infrastructure to utilise that human capital to create economic value. Melbourne is probably the key city  here. 

One sign of the  process of  change in Adelaide to becoming a  post-industrial city can be seen  in the number of boutique hotels being built in the city.This  is considered to be part of the 'revitalisation' index.      

The large background building under construction  is the Indigo Hotel in Market Street looking across Gouger St.  The Indigo  brand  is owned by IHG hotelier, which is  set to open in 2020.  It is marketed as adding to, and participating in  the vibrant atmosphere of the Central Market precinct. 

Adelaide Central Market precinct (walkable urbanism)

 Up until 2014-15 Suzanne and I   lived in Sturt St a couple of blocks from the Adelaide Central Market in Adelaide's  CBD.  The Central Market  was our shopping centre and we would do the weekly shop early on a Saturday morning around 7am after we had walked with the poodles (seen as significant others).  We would walk down to the market precinct  with a shopping trolley, have a coffee at Cibo's in Gouger St, do the shopping, then walk  back to the town house, unpack the shopping, then have breakfast. We would be back home around 8.30-9 am.

We walked to most places in the CBD (GP's,  gym,  hairdresser,  gallery openings,  etc ). This convenience was one of the attractions of inner city living. I understood walking  to be a counter to the car's domination of  the city with its  traffic noise and fumes, congestion,  the urban grime and the heat during the summer.   Our  car would  sit in the garage during the week,  as it was  mostly used for  travelling to places outside the inner city,  or to go to Victor Harbor on the  weekends.    Now, at Victor Harbor,  we have 2 cars and we have to travel in the car to several shops to  do the weekly shopping.  

street art

During the last few days I have been going through the archives looking for material for the forthcoming online Walking/Photography exhibition at Encounters Gallery. Whilst doing so I  came across some  photos of street art in Adelaide, South Australia that I had made around  2011 whilst I was walking  the city. 

I was living in the city at the time and my daily walks with the poodles would be around the CBD and the parklands. These walks would be meanderings--to do with exploration, a way of accommodating myself, of feeling at home. It was a way I got to know the city. Walking  into dead ends,  or  reluctantly retracing  my  steps,  didn't matter to me  because this was part of  the process of  exploration.  

Adelaide: an urban heat island

The skyline of 1970s modernist Adelaide from the top floor of the  Wakefield St  car park. We are  looking west towards Victoria Square.

Little has changed in this part of Adelaide since I  left living in  Sturt St in 2014 to move to Encounter Bay on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula.  The only change is the  hotel  on Whitmore Square-- the dark building in  the left  background. 

Summer in the CBD is  very hot due to the way surfaces like asphalt trap heat even as cars and buildings exude it. When a city is markedly warmer than  its surrounding rural areas, it is called an urban heat island.   Adelaide is one of the worst in Australia and it can be stressful, if not dangerous, to be outside  during a heatwave with 40+ degrees temperatures.  With  climate heating, the impact of higher temperatures will become more evident in the CBD.