I’m not the only one who keeps a weather eye out for new works by ‘C.L’, who turns discarded mattresses around Marrickville into ephemeral works of literary art. Here’s my latest sighting. After a brief foray into politics, she (I think the poet is a woman) is back to more existential subject matter. The calligraphy is less precise than usual – perhaps 2020 has taken its toll.
[Added a bit later: I keep thinking I can’t be the only one uploading images of C.L’s work. A moment with DuckDuckGo led me to the Nothing Really Mattress site, which showcases street mattress art from around the world. One of C.L’s distinctive works, perhaps from a happier time – ‘People fell in love on me’ – appears at this link.]
I live very close to Enmore Park, a geometrically laid out green space that’s beautiful at this time of year. Here’s a little walk I took, along one of the diagonals, though a sandstone arch that’s a monument to colonial selfhood to the corner of the colonial-named Edinburgh Road and Victoria Road, and a reminder that colonisation is still alive and well and harsh.
I’ve occasionally blogged about poetic gems that turn up on discarded mattresses around Marrickville (here’s a link). I’m not the only one – here’s a link to a post by someone called Therese Trouserzoff.
I can report a new sighting on the Enmore edge of Marrickville, this one signed like two of my previous specimens: ‘C.L’. The poet has moved from lyric celebration of life and art to political satire:
The poem is referring to New South Wales Liberal Party Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s revelations at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that she had been in ‘a close personal relationship’ with a corrupt politician, and had remained close to him after she sacked him from her cabinet. Here’s a link in case you live somewhere completely different.
You might see it as adding to the chorus of prurient outrage, an innerspring vox-pop rubbing salt into the wounds of Gladys’s humiliation. This is the inner west, where Liberal Party supporters aren’t exactly thick on the ground, so you could read it as endorsing the ALP’s opportunistic calls for Gladys’s immediate resignation. But remember, this two-word poem is published on a discarded mattress, as far from a high horse as you can get. In my reading, it offers a finger-wagging sympathy: not, ‘Poor Gladys, you were deceived by a rotter,’ or, ‘Evil Gladys, you turned a blind eye on corruption,’ but, ‘Naughty Gladys, fancy a serious girl like you getting up to something like that!’
We’ll see how it plays out at ICAC over the next couple of days or more. It may be the end of the Berejiklian premiership. And that may be a just and appropriate outcome. But C.L has captured a moment in the saga, and drawn readers’ attention to something so easily lost in this age of political polarisation: our shared human fallibility.
Does anyone know more about C.L? Is there a gallery of their work somewhere? I’d love to know.
A little over a month ago, I noticed a suspicious looking object on the pedestrian island just out the front of our house. It looked like a discarded shoe, but not quite. On closer inspection it revealed itself to be a Will Coles sculpture.
In case you can’t quite read it, the text on the sole of this cement shoe is ‘forgotten’, making it an elegant addition to the scattering of cement objects in our suburbs reminding us of our fragility, and the fragility of our environment.
But ‘forgotten’ wasn’t meant to last. To tell the truth I’d forgotten all about it until a car collected the barriers on the island on the weekend. Only then did I notice that all that remained of the sculpture was a stark shoeprint:
The shoe was gone before the barrier was knocked down.The barrier will be replaced in a week or so. The sculpture is now a prized – and prised – possession of a private art collector.
It’s 20 months since I posted about Marrickville’s mattress poetry. This morning wandering through the back lanes on my way home from the library, I saw not one but two more examples, these ones initialled by the poet, and I read them as a sequence:
The sequence was made doubly poignant by the meaty smell that filled the lane as I took this photo – a man was hefting carcases from a refrigerated truck with ‘Lamb from the Wiradjuri Country’ emblazoned on its side.
Will Coles’s works are probably seen and enjoyed by more people on a daily basis than those of any other sculptor. It’s not that crowds line up to see them, although he has been exhibited in galleries, but you might happen to look down while waiting for traffic lights or standing at a bus stop, and there will be a donut baring its teeth at you, or a squashed softdrink can inscribed with the word ‘Eternity’ in Arthur Stace script, or a mobile phone labelled ‘Hate’.
If you’re not familiar with his work, have a look at Mr Will on Flickr, and/or visit his web site. What I’ve been noticing is the way his work has been defaced – in Marrickville, Enmore, Newtown and as far afield as Surry Hills. In the video interview from Virtual Press Office below, he talks about this as part of the game, but sometimes it creates interesting new effects. The main damage to his work seems to come from would-be collectors and other street artists (or would-be artists). Could this be saying something more general about art in this society?
Street Plaque near the Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills. An image of the intact work is here.
An undefaced Sweet Tooth in the back streets of Marrickville.
Man-Made at a bus stop in Enmore Road. A would-be collector was defeated by the glue and left us with a relic. There’s a photo of an unmutilated piece here.
Finite, outside the Newtown police station. From this angle it looks pretty much untouched, except of course for the tags on its top.
But here it is from the other side. Not just the graffitists, but another street artist with a distinctive lettering style have used the sculpture as their canvas. Not so bad really: it just changes the image from white-goods consumerism to tacky laundromat.
Someone tried to acquire this Work, also near the Newtown police station, but the glue defeated them.
Here’s a patch of wall just off Enmore Road that’s been liberally covered with posters and graffiti. Hidden beneath the layers is a Will Coles sculpture.
Voilà! The piece is entitled Laissez Faire, but its comment on larcenous capitalism is a bit lost when it has been chipped at and buried in red paint.
The spectacular mural on the corner of Phillip and Gladstone Streets, Enmore. The owner of the wall welcomes street artists, asking them only to avoid the entrance to his place of business. These artists have impressively given due deference to the Will Coles work that was there before them.
A detail from the mural showing Laissez Faire, and also the damaged smaller Coles work, Tag, to its left.
Old mattresses are notoriously hard to recycle – the charities won’t take them because it’s illegal to resell them, and who wants to inherit someone else’s lumpy, stained discarded bedding? Recently a number of these items have been turning up on Marrickville kerbs, bearing inscriptions. Here’s one that I’ve had the presence of mind to preserve for posterity, or at least for the internet. Appropriately enough, it’s leaning against the Shepherd Street fence of Marrickville Public School:
In case you can’t see the image, the words on the mattress are:
and a baby boy
As I was taking the photo, a young man stopped and said, ‘There’s only one possible response: If you were single I’d take you home with me.’
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