Migrating whales, surfboards heading for the hidden rocks at Mackenzies and a hundred artworks on sandstone ledges, the park and the beach. Welcome to Sculpture by the Sea.
On the eve of this annual event, wanderers witnessed last minute preparations by sunburnt workers in heavy boots and bright vests who were busy stripping plastic off stainless steel and securing heavy blocks of glass in under the watchful eyes of artists and curators. Were those bags of sand actually art? Were the piles of timber frames on Tamarama beach a postmodern take on disposable society?When we were kids growing up in a rambling house several bays south, Mum declared ‘Tama’ out of bounds. We always thought it was the wild surf she worried about, but when time came to tear around coastal streets in rusty Volkswagens, it was the bare breasts that had us hiding and giggling behind straggly clumps of lantana. Back then, the beach was deserted except for locals, but in 2013, by the milky skin of a freshly brewed cappuccino, a newly installed café has dragged this bleached crescent of exquisite perfection into gentrified modernity.
Under smoky, cloudless skies, art lovers, busloads of school kids, joggers, prams and dogs will shuffle and jostle on steep sandstone steps without railings, compact grassed areas and unfenced concrete paths perilously close to cliffs.
For nature to morph into a temporary exhibition space, attitudes and behaviours must be accommodating. Perspective is required. Imagine the collective emotions when Governor Philip sailed into Sydney and cleared for farming the sandstone cliffs that date back 200 million years BC to the Triassic Age. How did the Cadigal people react to the gross appropriation of their land into the agri-business Mackenzie’s Dairy?
Sharing requires etiquette and empathy. Note to crowd-phobic residents: with prior permission from the Premier and the Mayor, this place, your ‘hood, is, for very two short weeks, an art gallery. You can embrace cultural chaos or you can rent out your house and flee, but for 17 years and hopefully, forevermore, this wonderful event is to be on your doorstep.
Visitors, on the other hand, should notice the narrow winding streets and take a bus. If public transport is not an option, it should be universally understood that parking over drive ways is a sure fire way to hell.
Joggers, you can’t appreciate the sculptures, the view or the rock engravings of sharks and whales while dodging prams and dogs. You must understand the chatty, distracted mob on the narrow, hilly route from Marks Park to Tamarama will neither keep to the left nor maintain your pace. So, if you are partial to lycra and sweat, you might consider a two week detour to Centennial Park where your long strides and flailing arms are less likely to catapult an art lover off a cliff.
Did I mention dogs and prams?