october 2009 | week four


THE LAB_symbol

Open residency project
Ocular Lab
West Brunswick


week four_outside view 
week four_inside view


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Adding the post-dinner loo bucket full of wet sawdust and wee to the growing heap. Seeing my regular route through the weeds now visible as a pathway at the compost site. Replacing the toilet bucket, topping up sawdust and cleaning the loo.

passers by
Making notes on conversations with passers-by, more frequent now as the interior of the space becomes visible to the street.

'Friendly man with a beer in a stubby holder stops in doorway to ask "What's it going to become this time?" Says that it used to be a milk bar. I say it's been an art gallery for a few years and will soon be an artists studio. Ask if he remembers it as a milk bar. "Oh yeah". He's lived in Brunswick for 23 years, but misses where he's from in Port Melbourne. Says again that he was just interested to know what it was going to become, wishes me a good day and walks on.'

'African man walking by stops and smiles and asks what I'm making. I say I don't know...have been working in the space and the main thing I'm doing is taking the paint off the windows. Ask if he's ever been in here before. He says no, but that he'd wondered why they were making it dark inside. I say I'd wondered that too. He says he wondered if there was a secret gallery in there. I say yes, that's a good way to put it - it's a secret gallery. He says "So you are taking the paint off, but it is still a secret gallery?" I laugh and say yes. He asks my name, shakes my hand, says his is Kobiar. Pleased to meet you, pleased to meet you. Ciao.'

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Sending and receiving mail at the Lab. Amending the gallery door note to pop out on the bike looking for a post box, realising my visual cue is the colour red.

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After slow, daily progress, completing the window stripping.

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Noticing the many milk bars, dead and alive, in the streets around the Lab.

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The clover's progress.

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Picking up a broom for the gallery. My mum's sisters come to visit and it gets put to use. Just after they arrive a girl walks in and looks around. I say hi, she asks if I'm renovating and if this is going to be an artist-run space? I say yes it is one, has been for a few years. She introduces herself as Jenna. Says she noticed the place and came in to have a sticky beak, that it looked welcoming. I say I'm pleased it felt that way, that that was my aim by stripping the windows. She says goodbye, that she's got a train to catch.

Earlier, while I'm sitting at the table, a young guys pulls up on a bike. Says "Oh, I thought it was a shop?" I say "It's kind of a shop..." He says "What do you sell?" I pause and say "I can give you a cup of tea?" He says "Nah". I hop up and explain it's an artist-run gallery, but a bit of a secret one, so I've been stripping the windows to make it more visible from the street and to let natural light in. He says natural light is good. That he lives nearby but only noticed the place as the windows have been stripped. Says he'll have to stop by and see an exhibition.

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Recording the many loquat trees in the area. The fruit ripening now in the warmer weather as the month closes, in one month's delay to loquat season in Sydney.

At breakfast on Friday morning I hear a big knock and see something trying to come under the door at home. Open up and it's my postman! We both gasp in surprise. I say you're always bringing me things, and did he recognise my name? He gives me a 'get real' look and I say "Oh, you deliver a lot of letters". He goes to wish me a good day and I say I might see him later at the Lab, but he says no, I won't - that's he's not doing extra hours today. I say I won't see him then, because next week I'm going home to Sydney. He says "Oh, forever?" and I say I've just been visiting. He says he hopes all nice things happen to me. I say I've enjoyed our chats and his visits, and that he's always surprising me. He says I surprised him too! As he gets on his bike I ask his name. "Sam". "Ciao Sam!" Waves goodbye and rides off towards Sydney Rd on Albion St.

Making a poster image of the heap for the back area of the Lab to link the toilet and compost sites.

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Picking the red flowers in bloom in local street plantings.

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Cleaning the windows and noticing the profusion of small insects that have accumulated on the stripped glass. Sweeping up a month of dust.

A passing thought, unrealised: to ask permission to access the top floor of the nearby Grandview Hotel, to appreciate and photograph the view.

picking loquats
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Picking loquats for the closing afternoon gathering. Noticing the spatial habits of regular Lab visitors, who congregate in the back to smoke, drink and chat. Encouraging a shift of emphasis to the front with chairs and open doors. Spiros, Bianca and Thea come up with an interpretation of my use of the space as a body - where the windows are eyes, the door a mouth, my desktop the brain and the humanure loo an anus.

Four week old clover.


Appreciating the clear view through the windows, from outside and in. The clear visibility into the space is well illustrated when to my surprise, while standing at the back of the room photographing, two guys in a passing car stop, wind down their window and engage with me...

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Adding the last bucket of toilet material with shells, seeds, skins and flowers from the Lab to the compost pile, along with more kitchen scraps, weeds and the clover too.

The heap and the path as I left them, along with instructions to the residents that the compost will be ready to use in December 2010.

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Rock the Boat: Localized Ethics, the Situated Self, and Particularism in Contemporary Art
Tere Vaden & Mika Hannula
Salon Verlag, Cologne

Common-sense compost making by the quick return method
Maye E. Bruce
Faber and Faber, London

The One Straw Revolution
Masanobu Fukuoka
Other India Press edition

A notebook full of notes and a gift for my host.



Humble Pile, a nutrient recovery project by Nance Klehm
The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins


To my many hosts and helpers...Sandra Bridie, Tom Nicholson, Clare Land, Julie Davies, Alex Rizkalla, Ocular Lab, Thea Rechner, Lucas Ihlein, Josie Cavallaro, Anne Kay, Bianca Hester, Kylie Wilkinson, John Najjar Furniture Forever.