These days I am cycling for 15 to 20kms every other morning, sometimes extending my ride to 30km. My preferred route takes me along the highway then into suburban streets to the former university campus and beyond to Sandgate. Turning from Dorville Road onto the cycleway and into the bush, it’s easy to freewheel down a gentle decline. It was raining this morning and by this point I was drenched. Having been away for a week, I noticed something different – a strip of bright colours through the trees that wasn’t there previously. Having already seen the graffiti tagging on several of the majestic gum trees, it was a safe bet that this would be more tagging. I can live with the tagging and appreciate the politics but dislike it on the broad trunks of those, or any, trees. In general, I find tagging more akin to marking and claiming territory rather than sharing experiences of space or place.
Around the bend, I discovered a boomgate painted with stripes of colour, like a rainbow. It was unexpectedly pleasurable and as I took photographs, a man – an elderly fellow – walking his dog emerged from the bush. Looking confused, he asked me what I was doing. So I explained that I thought the boomgate looked good. Shaking his head, he said it was a strange thing to do. As I patted his dog – a heavy-set blue healer cross with a big head, wide jaw and frantically wagging tail – he told me about how the campus had been taken away from the community by the government. He didn’t approve of the affordable housing plans and it should have remained a university. “Hopefully there will be a good result,” I propose. Something I strongly doubt given the manner in which the campus has been redeveloped as public service offices with little consideration for enhancing public facilities. “I don’t trust the government – not the previous mob or this lot,” he responds. Then he pointed in the direction of the boomgate, turning to walk away, and said it was good to walk along that stony path through the bush.
As a small intervention, this rainbow boomgate doesn’t make a particularly dramatic statement about reclaiming space, DIY transformation or poetic identity. It is something that someone did as they passed through here with a bag full of colours, tagging trees and signage. The quickly painted strips of colour have a gestural, informal and improvised quality. Here is a moment of encounter, a gentle surprise, even a gift, that tagging often does not provide. It has that sense of opportunism of much graffiti – out of public view, on the run and on the sly. A secret discovered.
This is one of the paths I will be taking for Fieldworking as it is on the path to Fitzgibbon. In using the panorama function of my camera, I am widening the view and bringing more contextual considerations into play. During my recent visit to Hobart, I walked the Battery Point Public Art Walk and attended MONA FOMA, taking panorama pictures instead of closely cropped images of the artworks or objects themselves. This is an integral part of the inquiry of Fieldworking.