Tag Archives: graffiti

Graffifi Tunnel, Sydney University: Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

Antonymns Rowena

Me on the campaign trail outside the Holme Building in 1990.

This week we’ve entering in a time tunnel and heading back to 1990 when I was running for election to edit Sydney University’s student newspaper: Honi Soit. Our team was called the Antonymns and the ant as our logo. Indeed, our intrepid leader was a massive 6ft black papier mache ant, which was hoisted up on top of a car and driven around campus. In retrospect, although we didn’t win, our campaign was actually pretty good and devising slogans, posters, t-shirts, stickers, cars mascots and then trying to convince the masses to vote for us was a massive undertaking. While some more astute politicians ingratiate themselves with key interest groups and hope the mob of sheep follow the leader, I went round speaking personally to masses of students. This included  interviewing students about the New Age Sensitive Guy or SNAG around campus and producing my findings in the university magazine: The Union Recorder.

antonyms in tunnel

As you can see, Graffiti Tunnel is a brutal, temporal place a lot like building a sandcastle on the beach, which is washed away before you’ve even stuck a feather in the top. I gather the Newshounds were either short or didn’t bring a ladder and that black ant does seem to be peering down and poking out it’s tongue at its miraculous survival.

Although election day probably should’ve been the pinnacle of our campaign, for me it was actually painting the tunnel. A friend of mine picked me up in his Dad’s station wagon and we must’ve got in there about 4.00-5.00am. It was pitch black, Winter and freezing. That’s what I remember…the cold. Yet, strangely I have absolutely no memory of any safety concerns. Seriously, who was going to knock a pair of mad students over the head during the middle of the night and run off with their tin of brown paint? Well, you can’t be too careful because our rivals, the Newshounds, had started sticking their posters up at the other end of the tunnel and they certainly were out to get us (and the feeling was mutual. The campaign had become rather heated.)

Anyway, getting back to our mission, we’d decided to turn Graffiti Tunnel into an ant tunnel. The plan was to paint the tunnel brown for that authentic look and then we stenciled Antonymns and blank ants over the top. In hindsight, I’d probably go for something more stylised using lurid colours to make more of a shocking impact. However, you live and learn.

Anyway, as I mentioned, while we were risking frost bite painting down one end of the tunnel, our rivals the Newshounds were sticking posters up at the other end of the tunnel and sometime long before dark, we met up. I don’t think the Newshounds thought too highly of the poo brown paint and the Antonyms really weren’t too sure that their intensely bright orange chalk quite conformed to election guidelines. From memory, their compliance with budget restrictions also seemed questionable. Minor things like this can flare up like a gangrenous wound during an election campaign and I lost a few friends during the course of this campaign, which I’ve regretted.

Anyway, as you may be aware, I revisited Sydney University last week and thoroughly inspected and analyzed my old haunts through the lens. This included returning to Graffiti Tunnel and feeling quite a sense of accomplishment that I’d actually painted that thing in my youth. That I was really living life to the fullest and seizing the day.

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However, while I was photographing Graffiti Tunnel this time, I was surprised to find many doors inside. As I photographed them for Thursday Doors, it never crossed my mind that they might actually lead somewhere. That there could indeed be a secret world behind those doors. I’d only ever seen it as a tunnel and never delved any further. However, that all changed on this visit and some of the doors were open, revealing corridors, labs and lecture rooms. It all felt rather macabre.

I guess places are very much like people. You can think you know someone rather well but then you see them in a different light and figuratively speaking a door either opens or closes and they’re not who you thought they were.

By the way, there’s a very strong part of me which longs to return to Graffiti Tunnel and paint it again. Update it all. I’d like to paint something which really gets the students thinking about what they’re doing. Where they’re going and finding more connection and a more optimistic outlook. I have a few ideas but I fully intend to express them in paint before I confess. Intentions don’t count. This will be my Nike moment…Just do it!

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sydney University…Retracing My Footprints.

It’s time to pop the champagne and launch the fireworks. Yesterday, I finally made it back to Sydney University, my former stomping ground. I can’t remember when I was last there. However, it’s been at least 15 years. Indeed, I’ve never gone back with Geoff or the kids and shown them what really is a part of myself. I don’t know why, but it’s a glaring omission. After all, as an Arts student 1988-1991, Sydney Uni was my home and raison d’etre. I was active in student life and lived just off campus  for at least some of that time. Moreover, being such a sentimental sod who revels in returning to the road once traveled, it really makes no sense.

So, what changed?

Well, yesterday I attended Carer’s Day Out at the Redfern Community Centre and uni was only a short hop, step and a jump away. Moreover, on the way, I could even check out my first home away from home, a terrace house on Abercrombie Street.

So, now I’d like to invite you along on a photographic tour of Sydney Uni starting out at Redfern Station and finishing up at the footbridge crossing Parramatta Road.

Sydney Uni Map

Leaving Redfern Station, we turn left into Lawson Street and are immediately swept along in a steady stream of pedestrian traffic. It feels so good to be back here and soak up the ambiance again. A good friend of mine used to live in one of these terraces so it’s not a stranger. Yet, there is an unfamiliarity as well. My camera’s hanging round my neck and I’m on the prowl, hunting for prey. I spot a mural and break with the flow to photograph it and became an island in the stream.

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Next, I turn left onto Abercrombie Street. Before we reach my old terrace, we’re walking through a row of shops. Rewinding to 1988, I gave my first poetry reading at the Reasonably Good Cafe, which was somewhere along here. Of course, the original is etched permanently in my memory. However, we’re talking 30 years ago and there’s no brass plaque marking where it was for posterity’s sake. There are still a few cafes and my best guess is that it was a cafe now called Tripod. Unfortunately, it was closed yesterday so I couldn’t take a closer look.

Now, I’m crossing Abercrombie Street to take a closer look at the terrace house which used to be home. It used to be on the pedestrian crossing and we could sit up on the balcony and watch the crowds milling past and call out to our friends. In terms of being a part of things and really experiencing student life, this place had location! Location! Location! Location aside, our student hovel didn’t have a lot of creature comforts. There was the semi-outside loo, not having a running hot water and needing to heat a gas thingy to have a shower, and the backyard was an industrial wasteland. This was character building stuff and besides, slumming it gave you added cred.

Walking further along Abercrombie Street, I’m turning right and within a few metres, we’re now at the front or back of campus depending on your perspective. First up, we come across the engineering faculty and before long we reach the Carslaw Building (has always sounded too much like coleslaw or cold sore for my liking) which is the big union service building on this side of campus and where the science students and engineers etc used to hang out. I catch the lift up and walk over the footbridge over City Road and stop to take a photo looking towards my beloved Newtown, which will have to wait for another day.

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Noticeboard Pastiche.

That’s when I spotted a row of noticeboards. Naturally, I was interested in checking out the posters and issues which are important on campus now. However, I was also intrigued by the noticeboard itself. You see, the surface was made up of layer upon layer of paper fragments and a gazillion staples. This mashed composition wasn’t glamorous or informative in anyway. Yet, it intrigued me…this detritus of a million ideas. What were they about and who put them there? So many hands and minds who perhaps like myself have all drifted away.  I was once one of those people stapling up posters in a past life. A campaigner and a believer, this is our legacy.

I keep walking.

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The Main Quad, Sydney University.

What with all this peering through the lens, I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment or draw an “X marks the spot” where I spotted the iconic Main Quadrangle (or “quad”) peering out above the trees. However, I was dazzled. Blown away. Not only by its architectural splendor, but also by the familiarity. It was like seeing a long lost friend after a break of thirty years. OMG! If it wasn’t a building or so big, I would’ve wrapped my arms around it for a hug.It meant so much to see it again.

As the university’s architectural crown, the Main Quad was always special. Yet, when you see it everyday, it becomes part of the scenery and taken for granted. Now, as much as I love it, it also looks like an alien spaceship which has crash landed in Sydney and would appear rather out of place if other similar buildings hadn’t been built around it. Designed by Edmund Blacket in the Victorian Gothic Revival style, it was based on the buildings at Oxford and Cambridge and is England transplanted to the Antipodes. Apparently, this style was already out of date when it was built and its always been anachronism.

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Fisher Library. 

However, before I head up to the Main Quad, I stop off outside Fisher Library. To be perfectly honest, not all of my memories of that place are good. That place was the scene of many rushed essays, voluminous photocopying and note taking and on a lighter note, there were also a few sightings of the male of the species. Indeed, out the front of Fisher Library used to be a popular meeting spot and I remember arranging to meet friends as well as a few “prospects” there.

By the way, Fisher Library is nowhere near as glamorous as virtually every other building on campus and looks more like an old demountable classroom that got too big for its boots. Right next to Fisher, there’s a soaring tower known as “Fisher Stack”. I can’t remember quite what was up there but it was considered dangerous for women to venture in there and rapes were more than urban myth. Or, at least that’s what I thought. I still haven’t forgotten that sense of all pervading terror when I had to find a book in there. It was so incredibly creepy and unlike the rest of campus where there’s always someone, Fisher Stack was deserted.

Finally, I was on my way to the Main Quad. This was the first time I’ve really focused on its architectural details. It’s also the first time I’ve actually photographed it as well zooming in on the omnipresent clock face and soaking up all the stone work around it with my eyes. In addition to the architecture, the Main Quad was also famous for its large jacaranda tree which always flowered during exam time and was a poignant reminder of stress and trouble. Tragically, the Jacaranda tree died a few years ago. Two trees were planted in its place. However, the Jacaranda is very spindly and can’t hope to catch up for a very long time to come. On a more positive note, I still remember being out in the Main Quad after my graduation. It was such a momentous occasion and by that stage, I’d had enough of study and felt long overdue for the real world.

Next stop, is Manning House. This was the union building where the Arts students hung out. Back in my day, there were three levels. Only level one was open in the mornings and I remember hanging out there for many hours and then heading upstairs to Manning Bar. I wasn’t much of a drinker, but the bar attracted a more bohemian set.  Level three was where the snooty private school types hung out wearing their Country Road clothing…the yuppies. As a former private school type myself, I did venture up there at times, but it wasn’t entirely my scene.

After leaving Manning, I headed for The Graffiti Tunnel which connects Manning to the Holme Building. This tunnel is the only place on campus where you’re allowed to use spray paint. It’s pure grunge and almost feels like a living, breathing organism. Back when I was running for election to edit the uni newspaper, Honi Soit, a friend and I painted the tunnel. Our team was the Antonyms and the ant was our mascot.  Indeed, one of our team members built a six foot ant which we mounted on top of a car, which we drove around campus. We also made up all these posters featuring ant words and had our own t-shirts. However, chalking was probably the main form of advertising. Our rivals, Newshounds, had very,  very bright fluoro orange paint which you could’ve spotted from the moon. Consequently, our pink chalk, became more intense and so did the rivalry. All that rivalry climaxed in the Graffiti Tunnel. We’d started painting brown paint and black ants at the Holme end, converting it into an ant tunnel. Meanwhile, the Newshounds had started out at the other end at at around 5.00am we crossed paths. I can’t remember what was said. However, let’s just say it was heated. By the way, you’ve probably already guessed that Newshounds won. Word had got out that much of our team were Christians and members of  EU (Evangelical Union). The other half was quite bohemian, but we were sunk. I’d been friends with many of the Newshounds prior to that campaign and sadly our friendships never recovered.

Naturally, I was looking forward to returning to Graffiti Tunnel and seeing what the students of 2018 are saying. What’s their take on life, the universe and everything? To be perfectly honest, I still don’t know. There was certainly a lot of colour. However, what I did notice was that there are quite a few doors in the tunnel, which I hadn’t noticed before. While I can’t speak for what’s behind all of them, but at least a couple led into lecture or tutorial rooms.

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Inside the Holme Building

Next stop, was across the road to the Holme Building. This was where most of the mature age students hung out back in my day, although I went there sometimes as well. Not sure why. However, I also remember having my Year 11 school formal in the Holme Building and it was also where the Arts Ball was held each year. That was a ripper. So much fun. Seizing the opportunity, I had to sneak into the dining area which was set up for a function, and photograph the scene of such exuberance. Why did I have to grow up? Why did I have to become responsible?

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Perhaps, that’s one of the greatest mysteries of life.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve chopped the university into such little bits and pieces here and I don’t know whether you can truly appreciate it as a whole. This effort feels incredibly inadequate, but for those of you who haven’t been here and are unlikely to ever make it to Sydney, it hopefully conveys something of an impression.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Our Magic Climbing Tree in Byron Bay

How many of us had Enid Blyton’s Folk of the Magic Faraway Tree read to us when we were young? Listening wide-eyed as they climbed up past Moonface, hopefully avoiding Madam Washalot and finally reaching the cloud at the top of the tree, wondering which land would be there today? What fabulous adventures lay ahead? I know my imagination was working overtime. Actually, it wasn’t my imagination because as a six year old, The Magic Faraway Tree was real and indeed could have been at the back of my own garden in suburban Sydney.

The Magic Faraway Tree.

The Magic Faraway Tree.

“I don’t believe in things like that – fairies or brownies or magic or anything. It’s old-fashioned.’
‘Well, we must be jolly old-fashioned then,’ said Bessie. ‘Because we not only believe in the Faraway Tree and love our funny friends there, but we go to see them too – and we visit the lands at the top of the Tree as well!”
Enid Blyton, The Folk of the Faraway Tree

The Faraway Children With Moonface.

The Faraway Children With Moonface.

While I don’t remember actually trying to find the Magic Faraway Tree itself, I do remember trying to find that perfect climbing tree. Being knee-high to a grasshopper, all the branches were too high and I still haven’t forgotten the frustration and disappointed heartache when I was stuck on the ground…especially when older kids had made it up!.Ouch! I still contend that I was meant to be a bird. However, in keeping with my poor sense of direction, I must have joined the wrong queue and somehow became a person instead! Yet, I still feel the makings of wings, of song and a bird’s eye perspective in my heart. This thing of being stuck on the ground still doesn’t feel right.

Our Magic Climbing Tree lives in the Railway Park in Byron Bay. I believe it is a kind of fig and occasionally we’ve seen it covered in yellow flowers but a Google search hasn’t helped me identify the tree in any further detail. However, what makes our climbing tree particularly special and extra climbable is that the tree was somehow damaged and knocked over and so instead of growing up, it’s growing on its side, which make it so easy for little people to find a footing and go climbing among the leaves and dream.

“remember what had happened. ‘I’ll just peep up through the hole in the cloud and see”
Enid Blyton, The Magic Faraway Tree Collection: 3 Books in 1

Naturally, for a child reared on Enid Blyton, our climbing tree reminds me of the Magic Faraway Tree. I watch the children climb up and disappear in its branches and find little hidden treasures and I remember that cloud at the top of the tree and all those revolving lands and I wonder if we could just climb high enough, where we would end up.

“Folks—please, please read this book. Not because it’s about Happy Children and Delightful Tree Folk. Not because it’s about Queer Lands and Strange Spells. Not even because it’s about White Clouds, Slippery Slips and Jersey Wearing Cushion Carrying Red Squirrels. But because it’s time to stop growing up, and grow down just this once; to cast aside the reality of a world that is so material, and even more cynical, and thus enter the Delightful Magic of a Blyton Dimension, one in which Silky the Fairy will haunt you wth her beauty, Saucepan Man will deafen you with his noise, and Moonface will overwhelm you with his beaming smile. And if you have to endure an occasional kettle of water or dirty washing all over you… well, it’s worth it.”

http://www.enidblyton.net/others/the-magic-faraway-tree.html

The other special thing about our magic climbing tree is that it gets things hung and drawn on its branches. I’m not talking about glitzy fairy lights but people leave little bits and pieces in the tree, which creates that experience of the unexpected. Every time we go to the tree, I wonder what’s going to be there today just like the changing world of the Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. We’re found empty milk crates dangling upside down on rope like a sculpture, a stuffed toy dog and sunflowers thumb-tacked to the trunk. Reminiscent of Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, there have also been ribbons in the tree.

We’ve also met many fascinating and intriguing characters under the tree and in the park. Although we haven’t Madam Washalot, Saucepan or the children, we’ve met a variety of travellers, including those who are “living free”. There’s a bit of that around Byron Bay and in the park but council is taking action and confiscating tents etc. Communities groups also come to the park and feed the homeless, which has also included us a few times this week and we truly appreciated it. It was lovely to be looked after! Some times you really need that bit of TLC and community care. You appreciate a breather and my cough certainly hasn’t been letting up.

Mister's Sunflower painting 2015.

Mister’s Sunflower painting 2015.

On this trip, we ran into Mama Dee again who was running a Free Art in the Park program. The kids did a few beautiful and inspired paintings while I chalked the pavements, thinking back to my days as a student politician writing chalk slogans around the footpaths of Sydney University. Dee’s son passed away in the park a few years ago and she has been committed to helping young people find their way.

Art in the Park, January 2012.

Art in the Park, January 2012.

Although Byron Bay has it’s breathtaking, postcard beauty, it has it’s underbelly. Young people in particular turn here not just for the surf but also for answers or place to turn when life is spiraling out of control and there’s seemingly no way out of the maze. When your life has no particular destination, Byron Bay somehow is somewhere to go. Find other seekers and that merging of souls can be a precarious mix. There needs to be somewhere to turn at such times and Dee is going her bit…along with local Churches and community groups. the Adventist Church across the road has been running a soup kitchen across the road for many years. Too many young people are falling through the cracks.

Painted onto one of the park benches in Railway Park, a dedication to all the young people who have suicided in the region.

Painted onto one of the park benches in Railway Park, a dedication to all the young people who have suicided in the region.

We also spotted what looked like a full-blooded Dingo in the park. I’ve never seen a Dingo outside a zoo before and while it seemed friendly enough and was some kind of community pet, I wasn’t entirely comfortable. Dingoes haven’t had good press in the past.

My tea cup in the park. These

My tea cup in the park. These “grannie cups” remind me of talking, listening, sharing…taking time for each other. We could all used another cup of tea.

While I’m here, I should also mention that the council has put up some new, very touristy toilets in the park. Something called an Ezyloo, which is pretty space aged. I’ve been to one in North Sydney and thought it was incredible but Byron Bay is Byron and I’ve always enjoyed reading the philosophical graffiti on the walls of the toilets here. Strangely, a robotic voice telling me I have 10 minutes to do my business isn’t quite the same…even if it does play “love sweet love”.

Graffiti on the wall, Railway Park, 2009.

Graffiti on the wall, Railway Park, 2009.

Philosophy adorning the toilet wall.

Philosophy adorning the toilet wall.

Do you have any memories of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree Series? Or, perhaps some great stories of climbing trees, falling out of trees etc?

Hope you are having a good week!

xx Rowena