Banana Republic, 2016, Shipping container, glass window with a Sydney Harbour view, coal stove, ply bench & ply interior, 2 tonnes of black coal to be burnt for the duration of the exhibition. Dimensions variable.
It's the thirty-year anniversary of Paul Keating’s famous Banana Republic speech. And where are we at?
This installation is our attempt to create an enclosed space that is the personification of a city. A shipping container is installed in the littoral zone that is now known as Barangaroo. The shipping container is arranged to create a room that mimics the physical experience of watching a video installation in an art gallery. Within the shipping container viewers sit at a bench that is located opposite to a floor-to-ceiling window exposing the beautiful view that is Sydney harbour. Sitting enclosed within the confines of the shipping container, this view is food for gentle contemplation within a warm, cosy, comfortable space. The only thing that partially obscures this view is a pesky coal heater that someone has installed in front of the window- obscuring the view but also creating a very comfortable temperature within the shipping container on a windy winter’s day. Thoughtfully, a pile of coal lies behind the sitting bench, ready to restock the furnace.
The situation recalls the Dead Kennedy’s album title: Give me Convenience or give me Death. Within the container, we are warm, we are comfortable, we have a beautiful view; we are having a pleasant time. While outside the shipping container our comfort is being telegraphed to the rest of the people in Barangaroo by the acrid smell of burning coal in the air. We are watching the harbour, safe in the knowledge that our actions will contribute in some small way to the melting of the polar ice caps, eventually submerging the place where are sitting.
Therefore, far from creating a comfortable place to admire the beautiful shoreline, what we have created is in fact a large target of hate. Who wants to smell a stinky coal fire while taking a leisurely stroll along what will soon be the landscaped gardens surrounding a casino?