55 Sydenham RdMarrickville NSW 2204 AU
1. Throughway for a lizard
On the 2nd of March I made a first visit to 55 Sydenham Rd. We sat in the space and had a long chat about the effort that went into renovating and constructing the studios and gallery, what kind of work we were doing when we were both in the M.H Franks Upholstery building studios in Camperdown back in the Nineties and the increasing drift of artist-run spaces out to Marrickville. We reflected on the disquieting role of artist-run initiatives in the gentrification of neighbourhoods - triggering the urban change that ultimately displaces artists and other poorer locals. Looking around the room for points of interest, I found a small hole passing right through the concrete floor to the level below. It was described how during the months of building work a lizard was seen coming up through this hole, crossing the room and under the wall to another part of the building. A hole in the new gallery wall temporarily restores the potential passage of a lizard across the upper floor of an industrial warehouse building in Marrickville.
2. Pot plants for the studios
For the duration of the exhibition, a pot plant was placed on the sunny windowsill of each of the three artist studios adjacent to the gallery. Tended to by the tenants, their wellbeing became a measure of the life of the studios.
3. Stray cats on Shirlow St
Shirlow St is the next cross street on Sydenham Rd and I recognised the name, having read about a colony of cats on this street on a local artist’s blog. Throughout the show I spent time looking for signs of cats and returning observations of the surrounding streets back to the gallery.
Riding in daylight down Shirlow St to the dead end and walkway through the industrial estate, where I think there should be cats. Surprised by a sandstone-walled reservoir alongside the railway line. No cats.
Taking a photo of the side of 47 Sydenham Rd and from the corner of my eye seeing my first cat slither down a drain in the daylight. Heading down Shirlow St after dark with a box of Friskies and laying down piles to see if they'd be eaten. Noticing two cats crouching at the back entrance of number 47 and the way the camera perceives the cat's eyes. Taking photos and again a black cat slinks into my peripheral vision, low to the ground, and warily eats the food. Another waits under a bench. Seeing a woman feeding the two cats waiting at the back of number 47. Night cats.
Visiting the end of Shirlow St in the afternoon and no sign of cats. Riding back after dark and a pair come galloping towards me from down the road, seeming familiar with a figure on a bike. They prowl around, tails up, expecting food. Returning to the gallery to get the box of Friskies. Coming back they remain aloof and disinterested in me. Smart cats.
Cat photo notes returned to the gallery each week and afterthoughts - I only ever saw pairs of cats. Conversations with exhibition visitors confirmed sightings of larger numbers, particularly around the food processing factories and towards Marrickville Metro shopping centre. Reports of being approached by cats while riding through these streets at night continued to pop up after the duration of the exhibition.
Iakovos Amperidis, Raquel Ormella and Nick Strike.
Posted by lisa kelly