I AM NOT AN ANIMAL
Architect . Jean-Paul Rollo with Romas Kesminas / Proposal . Laneways Commission 2008
The work of sculptor Ron Robertson-Swann, Vault is arguably one of Melbourne’s first contemporary public artworks, commissioned by the Melbourne City Council in 1978 and realised in 1980 as part of a new scheme for the Melbourne City Square. It captured the imagination of all Melburnians and was at the heart of heated controversy and debate even before it was erected. To date “The Yellow Peril”, as it was nicknamed by the newspapers, has had three homes, been a cartoonists’ dream, appeared in paintings and in architecture, and been the protagonist of a play at La Mama Theatre.
In our proposal, passing by the laneway, your attention is taken by fragments of bright yellow slashes on the ground and walls and ceiling. The slashes seem to give way to nothing, cutting across pipes and windows and brick and concrete and steel and columns. Move to the left slightly and some of the ‘fractured’ yellow lines begin to align. A surprising apparition of Vault materializes momentarily. Now cross the road and move left and right again, backwards and then forwards. Perfect! How lucky we are to stumble upon the ghost of Vault back in the city, this time like the slightly blurry murals of Howard Arkley.
The installation draws its inspiration from principles of false perspective and upon the baroque technique of Trompe-l’oeil. Centuries ago artists played with perspective to achieve 3-dimensional effects using 2-dimensional medium. More recently European artists like Georges Rousse and Felice Varini have used a similar strategy to create graphic illusions within architecture. Spatially, the long narrow laneway (refer to attached design drawings), partly enclosed by a concrete ceiling striped with structural beams is perfect for our installation to play a similar ‘trick-of-the-eye’. The simple, highly recognisable outline of Vault is an ideal subject for the new public artworks that will be temporarily scattered throughout the laneways of Melbourne. As you enter the lane, the simple 2-dimensional lines become quickly complicated, the outline dissolves and you are surrounded by a frenzy of seemingly random yellow fragmented paint-strokes.
When the controversial sculpture was moved within less than a year of its erection in the new City Square, it was pushed to the outskirts of the city where it could be forgotten. In Batman Park it took on a different role. It became a shelter for the homeless, a skateboard ramp, kicking practice target for a local Melbourne football team and a graffiti wall. It was once scrawled with the words: I AM NOT AN ANIMAL. Like Vault, our installation will deteriorate in time covered with layers of graffiti. Like Vault, it will ‘surround’ the homeless who may choose this laneway as their shelter for the night. Like Vault, this ghost will have three lives during its temporary installation – it will be maintained and repainted...until next time.