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Now and When Venice 2010

Architect . Jean-Paul Rollo with Romas Kesminas and Danius Kesminas / Proposal . Venice Biennale Now and When 2010

Best of Both Worlds

The real world is not as calm as it appears to be from here

The small world is not as strong and the testing ground is near

The old world is not as safe with the new world closing in

The great south land can be as great as the one it could have been

We’ve got the best of both worlds


This project, Best of Both Worlds: An Antipodean Ecumenopolis, imagines Sydney Harbour in 2050. The title derives from the eponymous song by Midnight Oil from their Red Sails in the Sunset album released in 1984. Our image decontaminates and refurbishes the LP cover graphics that portrayed the firebombing attack of Port Jackson and the concomitant arid, people-less wasteland of nuclear disaster. Sixty-six years on much has changed – and radically so. Contrary to the pessimistic forecasts of the Midnight Oil lead singer and ex-Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts in the former Shorten Cabinet, the late Peter Garrett, Sydney is now a seething Ecumenopolis. Ocean levels are rising in a vengeful inversion of Robert Hughes’ remark that, for all he cared, “they could tow Australia out to sea and sink it”. The barren craters are filling with water and the Opera House is on stilts. Just as the Chernobyl nuclear power station’s “exclusion zone” is a haven for wildlife, the Oil’s apocalyptic vision of Sydney has proved a dystopic mirage. Lush with greenery, it has been colonised by refugees from the Asia-Pacific region whose islands have disappeared. Taking advantage of safe passage and Australia’s new status as the furthermost island of the Indonesian archipelago, these migrants have constructed an informal “walled city” agglomeration of dense high-rise buildings unhinged from the restrictive regulations of town planning. A mega-mosque at the base of the Harbour Bridge broadcasts the holy prayer from its pylons that have been adapted as minarets. Junk-rigged sailboats navigate the harbour and are the primary mode of transport of this new Asian-Australian, Muslim-Mambo urban fabric. We intend for the Indonesian-Australian, art-punk collective, PUNKASILA, to re-record Best of Both Worlds in Bahasa Indonesia, Arabic and English as an anthem for this new continent-city. We will then appropriate and renovate the Midnight Oil music video to animate our optimistic vision of the future. The MTV style clip will be an audio-visual fusion of architecture, urban-landscape design, art, cultural theory, science fiction, religion and pop culture.


Text . Danius Kesminas

Now and When Venice 2010 project images
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