In Perceptive Intro-version the disused power station that has towered for decades over the entrance to Balmain - my home suburb - has become the place where a coal-driven era is not only arrested but also inverted. Whereas high fences and forbidden access had sanctioned this formidable power base of a bygone era into a site of stately ruins, an “Open Day” that sent a feverish message of anticipation and longings throughout my local community, drove me to impress it upon visible memory through photography.
Autobiography is the foundation of any artwork I create. In Perceptive Intro-version, I sought to mark the end of a period laden with reminders of hubris, environmental exploitation that precipitated climate change, and last but not least the coal miners’ strike of 1949 that ushered in the labour movement with the introduction of the 35-hour week and “long service leave”.
I began my photographic exploration of the power station all the while sensing the silent presence of workers and their coal-miners colleagues whose mine a mere mile away at the edge of the water in Water street, Birchgrove is now the site of my then home. However, the buildings’ fragility stood in stark contrast to the authority of its history.
Jalal Toufic says that “art acts like the mirror in vampire films: it reveals the withdrawal of what we think is still there”. And so, sensing already a withdrawal, I set out to create layered optical illusions in order to unsettle even further the present.
As I continued to photograph the building, I began to experience an unsettling emotion that sought to bring into equilibrium the gravity-defying struggles and what seemed to be disruptive geometry. Oblique bridges suspended in mid-air, corrugated iron rooms perched on the edge of a five-story high brick wall, abruptly interrupted trolley tracks, and decaying pulleys demanded somehow that I mark these exertions.
In this body of work, I wanted to create a sense of movement through the foreboding stillness as a way to signify the hyper-activity of the power station’s history in contrast to the monumental silence of its present. In a sense, I sought to excite the eye in the equally still photograph in order to create optical illusions and a furtive tremor in perception in the viewer. In addition, inverting the photographs to negatives further destabilizes the site’s present and positions it in a timeless warp. The resultant slippage that emerges between the body’s spatial position and the layered operations of perception seem to cause an illusion of disturbed stillness: a perceptive into-version.