I have been into this building many times, but it is only this week, while gathering a few more images for my upcoming book Type Town, that I took proper notice of the words. I never knew it said ‘public library’! I knew there were words, I know this is a library, but I know it as the State Library—which is what the sign around the corner on Macquarie St says. I also discovered that this section of the street is called Shakespeare Place. One thing I am still unsure about, however, is the architectural term for the part of the building where the text appears. Above is the pediment and cornice, below is the architrave—but the section in between—I think it is the frieze, but I’m not sure. Perhaps I could find the answer inside, on the library shelves.
The first time I went to Hawai’i it came as a revelation that hula was not just the entertainment of Elvis movies, but a deeply meaningful and moving form of storytelling. And the first time I saw hula kahiko, the traditional hula style often performed by men, I was spellbound. The first hula I learnt was the Haleakala Hula, using the split bamboo sticks called pū’ili. I had barely managed to master the steps by the day of the performance, so when our kumu, the magnificent Uluwehi Guerrero, surprised us by playing the accompaniment at lightning speed, I still don’t have any idea how I managed to keep up! It was only when I was throwing out my favourite old shoes, after I had worn them through, that I discovered they were ‘hula’ shoes. Which made me laugh, because of course they would have been no help to me, as there is no such thing. Whatever style of hula, it’s always performed barefoot.
I realise this is not the full story, however when I saw this segment of writing I wasn’t particularly interested in finding out what the rest of it said. It was enough to occupy my time musing about why arts had a curfew, what it must have done that would result in not being allowed after 10pm. I am reminded of another cut off word, one that I see regularly when traversing the Petersham intersection. From the car, waiting for the lights to change, you can see a sign that shouts READ—which we should all be encouraged to do more of!—and it’s only when the lights turn green and you drive on that a hidden B is revealed.
This is a spread from my recent artists book Dynamic vigour in music. The text is made up from cut up lines from an old book, and the image is a scan of a mixed media drawing I did a couple of years ago. It was only quite recently, when it was brought to my attention at a book group meeting, that I became aware of how much I use cut up text. And I realised I have done it since art school days, when I would take strips of words from magazines and newspapers to incorporate into drawings. In my more recent book work, I like the idea of taking text that appears in one form with one meaning, and rearranging it randomly—taking it out of context—to form new meaning (or nonsense, as the case may be). I’m not the first person to rearrange printed words—the concept can be traced back to the Dadaists in the 1920s and has been used since by a myriad of artists, writers and musicians—but I like the limitlessness of it and that every time the result is different.