Future ourselves, scenes, at Islands, Islands. Bus Projects, Naarm, 2020

CATEGORY: Online Exhibition curated by Rozalind Drummond
COLLABORATORS: Nadine Christensen, Ruth Cummins, Rozalind Drummond, Elein Fleiss, Yanni Florance, Shelly Lasica, Travis MacDonald, Jacob Raupach & Mark Rodda


Restricted to private dwellings and our digital spheres, our social and public lives have diminished. Our sense of time is heightened as we follow a similar, at times acute, daily routine; now clandestine and bound by our interactions with things, not people. Coupled with time, we have a heightened sense of our surroundings; the timber awning window with an outlook, the door to the bathroom with its turn-lock and oval-shaped handle, the old bentwood dining chair from hard-rubbish now only good for holding the growing stack of Saturday’s newspapers. When considering the future of what our physical environment might be post-pandemic, it seems necessary to consider the nature of time in our built environment.

We often fail to recognise and interrogate the embedded histories in the fabric of the everyday. Formed on an accumulation of architectural elements (ie. windows, doors, toilets etc.); the banal to the extraordinary, the obsolete and the emerging, the standard or the few things that can claim to be original, perhaps even unique. Architecture continues to be in tension between unyielding persistence and constant change, which is of particular interest here. These elements carry qualities established thousands of years ago, while others have undergone recent and radical shifts. This interesting tension between new and old, the contemporary and archaic is not often recognised, nor celebrated.    

It is an ingrained characteristic of our contemporary society that we should value either the ‘new’ or the ‘old’; the former being synonymous with ‘innovation’ and ‘progress’ and thus proclaimed to be good, without acknowledging the conformity that arises from the behaviours of economy, production and technology, nor the problems of waste and the increasing limitations of material resources. This binary distinction also prevents us from reading the field of variations that exist between. We tend not to confront the messy-ness and the ambiguous, opting for an erasure of time, tabula rasa over the palimpsest. We are instead conditioned by the categorisation of things as either accepted ‘heritage’ of a particular time, or the cycles of things that present a-new.

By comparison, the timber buildings and structures at the Ise Grand Shrine (in the Mie Prefecture of Japan) are ceremoniously rebuilt every 20 years, symbolic of the Shinto beliefs that centre on nature’s impermanence, its decay and renewal. In this cyclical process, the ‘new’ shrine is constructed next to the ‘old’, that acts as the model or code for recreating the shine identical to its antecedent. In this way the shrine is a perpetual copy, neither can be considered an ‘original’. But we can also recognise it as the same object everlasting and in a constant cycle of renewal. It is only at this moment of re-making that time can be read - when both ‘old’ and ‘new’ co-exist side-by-side; one in decay yet to be dismantled, the other emerging. When the past and future are made visible, as if on either side of a mirrored plane.

In an act of subverting time, the Turkish Cypriot Australian artist Mutlu Çerkez (1964-2005), developed a system for dating his artworks that formed the basis of his practice. He incorporated a future date into the work’s title alongside that of when it was made, marking out a point in time for it to be re-made; or repeated, though not necessarily in its original form. Questioning the ‘evolutionary model’ of art and many of its conventions, Çerkez sought to compress the otherwise hierarchical classification of an artist’s works as; minor or major, early ‘formative’ or later ‘mastery’. In deconstructing the conventional linear timeline, each artwork was given equal significance, signalled to reappear and be remade at a later date, challenging whether the artwork is of a particular time or should be considered finished.

In particular, his interest in bootleg recordings; both of his own making and the album covers that accompany them, like those made for bootleg recordings of Led Zeppelin; disregarded copyrights, authorship and questioned the value granted to the ‘original’. Akin to the remaking of the Ise Grand Shrine, these illicit recordings were “repackaged over and over; as bootlegger bootlegged bootlegger”. In this way, the accumulation of the artist’s works is considered to be the subject.

Similarly, Architecture should be thought of not as a complete or singular object or of a particular time, but rather one that is accretive and in a constant state of flux; something that will be changed, adapted and re-made. We should embrace that which exists between ‘old’ and ‘new’; things which are de-constructed, re-constructed and the perpetually in-complete.

Cerkez. M, ‘unpublished lecture’. Lecture delivered at the Centre for Ideas, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, 2002. Published by Monash University Museum of Art, 2018.
Koolhaas. R, ‘Elements of Architecture’, Fundamentals,14th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale, 2014.
Markham. M, ‘Originality’, Transition; Discourse on Architecture. Issue 47, 1995.