Tag Archives: student

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

 

University Antics!

As the years pass by and a spirit of creative rebellion fades away and the realities of work, mortgage, kids and life take over, it’s easy to feel that person was someone else. Perhaps you, like me, felt you belonged in Dead Poet’s Society going  out in the woods reciting Whitman, or indeed your own poetry, by candle or torch light or perhaps you really did fit into one of those Hollywood coming of age films…a cheerleader, the jock..or indeed the jerk.

Dead Poet's Society.

Dead Poet’s Society.

Yes, indeed there was also “The Revenge of the Nerds”. That was released while I was still at school.

University of Sydney 1870s

University of Sydney 1870s

When you first enter the University of Sydney through the iron gate into the Main Quadrangle, you can’t but be impressed by the years of conservative tradition and the incredible minds who have walked these hallowed corridors. As Australia’s first university, there is and always has been a lot of prestige, pride and a real sense of academic achievement, which is encapsulated in my graduation photo with the tradition black gown with ermine trim.

The historic sandstone building in the Main Quadrangle featuring the iconic Jacaranda tree which was planted in 1927 by EG Waterhouse. The tree is an unfortunate harbinger of bad news. As it's branches start to bud, exam time is looming.

The historic sandstone building in the Main Quadrangle featuring the iconic Jacaranda tree which was planted in 1927 by EG Waterhouse. The tree is an unfortunate harbinger of bad news. As it’s branches start to bud, exam time is looming.

However, when it comes to getting that all-important university education, what you learn outside the books is just as important that those set texts which will ultimately earn you that all-important piece of paper and the job of your dreams…a career.

As far as my education at Sydney University was concerned, it was all focused on “Manning”. Manning was a three-story student haven. The bottom floor was for the early birds and where you could get a morning coffee and veg out while skipping lectures. The second floor had the cafeteria and the all important “Manning Bar” scene of much philosophical musing, pursuit of the flesh and the annual band comp. The third floor of Manning was where the private school people hung out and in retrospect was rather elitist. While I might have qualified for the prestigious selection criteria, I felt much more at home among the bar flies, although all I used to drink was a single West Coast Cooler, which, by the way was rated as one of the daggiest drinks along with Passion Pop.Brentonb

The crew I mingled with at the bar, were often living out of home in one of the rundown terrace hovels around campus and unlike the folk upstairs who were flaunting their designer labels, there was something greater at stake at Manning Bar…street cred. UNfortunately, I had no street cred whatsoever and not even a pair of Doc Martin’s to pretend. My “colleagues” would indulge in bottles of McWilliams Royal Reserve Port, which had doubled in age by the time you’d walked home. It was raw stuff which, again damaging to my street cred, I used to drink with coke or lemonade.

Orientation Week Stalls.

Of course, the big event each year on Campus was Orientation Week where, in addition to taking care of all the business of enrollment, the clubs and societies held stalls out on the front lawn. These clubs and socs promised everything but a debauched feast straight out of the Middle Ages. I belong and even ran the university’s writer’s group Inkpot and was involved in poetry performances and jam sessions of sorts. Another hit was S.U.C.R.O.S.E (Sydney Uni Chocolate Revellers Opposed to Sensible Eating). I remember one event held in winter and we were all wearing coats with very deep and multiple pockets and in addition to shoveling all I could eat into my gob, I also loaded up my coat for a midnight snack.Of course, there was also the Sydney Python Appreciation Movement (SPAM). I wasn’t so into Monty Python myself but I loved all the spectacle and theatre…and the way out costumes. There was the Grim Reaper and also Erik the Viking. I think we ended up singing the SPAM song on MTV although I couldn’t be sure. University days are filled with myths and legends.

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Monty Python’s Spam Sketch: www.youtube.com/watch?v=anwy2MPT5RE

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that I ran for editorship of the university newspaper, Honi Soit. Our team was called The Antonyms and we did a whole lot of promotional posters using ant words such as “brilliant”. Like all political campaigns, the competition was fierce. Our main promotional strategy, aside from posters around campus, was writing slogans in chalk around campus.Our opponents, the Newshounds, got hold of some super-bright fluorescent chalk, which I’m sure, could have been seen from space. We also made a huge blank ant (pictured), which we drove around. A friend of mine who got behind our campaign, had an idea to turn the tunnel between Manning and the Holme Buildings into an ant tunnel so there we were about 4.00 AM in the bitter freezing cold turning the tunnel poo brown and painting black ants throughout. It wasn’t even surprise when we ran into the Newshounds who’d set up at the other end of the tunnel. The battle was on. Unfortunately, our more nature-inspired ant tunnel was no match for their bright paint. Needless to say, the Newshounds won the election and I think our team had fallen apart before the election was even done. But it was great fun!

Here I am posing in front of the Ant-Mobile running for editorship of Honi Soit in 1991.

Here I am posing in front of the Ant-Mobile running for editorship of Honi Soit in 1991.

University also provided me with my first opportunity to get published. I had a letter to the editor published, which protested the introduction of fees. However, I really made a bit of a name for myself as a bit of a roving Germaine Greer writing about sexuality and in particular double-standards on campus. The first article was called: “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t: Attitudes towards Female Sexuality” and the sequel was about the Sensitive New Age Man (SNAG). I also had a poem about a guy who had an affair with his computer published. I’ll have to post that once this A-Z Blogging Challenge is over. I’m in survival mode at the moment. Tomorrow being ANZAC here commemorating 100 years since the landing at Gallipoli, I’m needing to get onto that as well as wake up at 4.00am as the kids are marching in the Dawn Service with Scouts. Geoff’s Great Uncle served in Gallipoli and I’m desperately trying to put details together while writing this and baking ANZAC Biscuits, which are bound to burn with all this multi-tasking!

Just like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, the rest of what happened at university stays at university.

This has been U for University Antics for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

Anyone game to cough up any of their university or college antics? Don’t be shy!

xx Rowena