Words by KIERAN FINNANE, pictures by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The stone walls and simple geometry of the Old Stuart Town Gaol last night became the canvas for a different kind of street art, known as “video architecture”. Aptly named, it doesn’t just look for a flat surface to mark or adorn, but actually responds to the form of the building, inviting you, creator or viewer, to re-imagine it.
The imagery projected onto the old gaol took into account its archetypal peaked roof above a square front, with a small barred window over a central door. The images had been drawn, using richly coloured crayons, by about 30 people taking part in two workshops held at Watch This Space. Anyone could participate, they didn’t have to be ‘an artist’, and that’s central to the ideas of the project’s two instigators, Jim Coad and Helen Kelly, who were invited to town as part of the Alice Desert Festival.
“We want the work to be immediate and inclusive of people and community,” said Kelly. “They can get involved in whatever way they want.”
While digital technology is used to get the imagery projected onto the walks, the pair much prefer to work with the “imperfect, responsive, naive” quality of pencils, paints and brushes in hands that are not necessarily trained, than to spend months perfecting designs on computers.
Coad “maps” the building that is to be used and from that produces a line drawing that is given to people to “colour in”. Some lovely ideas emerged in the process: the building overgrown by flowering foliage; a few lines transforming the gaol into a church; a silhouetted figure of a man with outstretched arms as if breaking free from its confines; a butterfly-like form brushing across the facade; tears coursing down the facade; ants crawling across it; two male heads in a simple line drawing of the kind that you might find on gaol cell walls. And the building’s human scale and its rough-hewn light sandstone really seemed to speak from the past, enlivened.
The side of the neighbouring police station was also mapped. The greater part of it is a flat surface but towards the front is a rounded column, no doubt a stairwell, and it was interesting to watch the way people’s designs responded to the two flat surface and then the rounded form.
On this wall there were also some live projections. Easels and paints were provided and the process filmed live, so that the transformation happened as you watched, with the movements of the human hand wielding a brush as engaging and lovely to watch as any effect of colour or motif (see bottom).
On the opposite wall of the courthouse a video projection showed the work of Damon Logan, who has a studio at Watch This Space. He’d filmed local people, a simple series of faces, people that you might bump into in the street, or in the courthouse for that matter, on any day, the people of this place.
Coad and Kelly welcomed his proposal, just as they also were delighted when Dave Williams proposed a musical piece to go with their work.
There’s more “video architecture” coming up: tonight Coad and Kelly will do two installation projections responding to their own experience of Alice Springs on the Festival Club Big Top at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden; tomorrow, Thursday, work from participants in the workshop and live projections will be on two walls of the Flynn Church in Todd Mall; and on Friday, there’ll be a projection at the Frank McAllister Park, alongside Araluen.