Friday 31 March 2023

Time by Rone, Art installations

A few weeks back I went with my dad to see the Time exhibition in the Flinders Street Station Ballroom.  The artist, Rone, describes it as a "nostalgic love letter to mid-century Melbourne".  As we arrive we are told not to touch anything, that every cobweb and piece of dust are part of the exhibition.  This is the first inkling of how much painstaking attention to detail has been involved in the installations.  It is hard to know where the history ends and the art starts.  In creating this ambitious exhibition, Rone employed 120 people on the ambitious 3 year project. 

The thrill of being in the fabled Flinders Street ballroom was less intense as I had first been there for the Patricia Piccinini exhibition, but Rone really uses the building as an integral part of the installations.  It feels as though we are in abandoned rooms from the past that we have happened across years later; faded, cobwebbed and neglected.  The only human presence is the wistful sepia face of Rone's muse, the model Teresa Oman.  She hovers over each installation like a ghostly presence from yesteryear.  The windows to the present in the corridor are covered in mid century newspapers, lights slowly dim and brighten, and Nick Batterham has created a haunting and melancholy soundtrack of piano and strings.  It is such an evocative, immersive experience. 

Here are the 12 installations in order that we saw them:

The Art Studio.  The easels with sketches reminds me of life drawing in art short courses I have taken. I notice a stool knocked over.  These rooms are not perfectly organised.  Pictures are crooked, stuff is scattered on the floor or out of place.  I loved reading that they even spilled some liquid on one of the rugs to make art imitate life.


The Classroom:  it a trades school classroom.  Which makes sense because these offices by the ballroom in Flinders Street station were built to provide leisure activities to the railway workers.  Why?  To make the workers happier so there would be less strikes!  A few employers could learn from this today!  A gymnasium, a lecture theatre, a magic lantern, a library and clubs.  The classroom was evocative of a simpler time.  I saw an older woman get nostalgic about a book thata she had as a student.


The Library: my favourite room.  I can't resist rows of old books.  I can cope with books over the floor because I can't fit all my books in my shelves at home but I did want to straighten the crooked pictures.  The library came complete with a wrought iron spiral staircase, old leather chairs and even a secret door.  I noticed lots of books had Time written on them and asked a guide who said that all the books had been made for the exhibition.  I read elsewhere that the books were hollow because the room could not handle the weight of so many books.

The Pharmacy: a dusty old shop.  My dad was amused at a big sign for Aspro claiming that it does not harm heart or stomach.  I loved the old scales and old greeting cards.  We've been watching Back in Time for the Corner Shop, where the designers often found they had to make new packaging to make the past seem fresh and new.  Whereas Rone created a forgotten and abandoned world where everything was faded and rusted around the edges.  The pharmaceuticals were way past their use-by dates and covered in dust and cobwebs.

The Clock Room: the first thing that strikes us is the silhouette of the old clock face that is backlit.  At first I thought this was an actual clock face on the building.  But I am very fond of the Flinders Street Station building and, yes I did a google search on my phone, because I had to confirm that there was no clock outside this part of the building.  It was a such an impressive illusion.  And an allusion too.  Flinders Street Station is famous for its clocks giving train times.  It has been a favourite place to meet for so long that when they tried to digitise the clocks, there was an outcry.

The clock drew the eye but when we looked around there was that face looking upon the room, wine bottles, old crates and a piano.

The Glasshouse: is set up in the arched ballroom.  It is the only room created as an outdoor space of sorts.  Apparently it is inspired by London's Crystal Palace.  I used to live near the Crystal Palace tube station but the actual structure had burnt many decades before.  For me the glasshouse was reminiscent of the scene in The Sound of Music when Liesl and Rolfe sing 'Sixteen going on Seventeen'.  I loved the ivy growing over the seats and up the windows as though it will eventually cover the whole structure.

The Work Room: the exhibition is set in mid century Melbourne when post war migrants came in huge ocean liners to help with our manufacturing industry.  One of these industries was the garments industry which employed warehouses of seamstresses at sewing machines like this one created by Rone.  It made me nostalgic because my grandmother was a seamstress at the time.

So my dad and I were the misty eyed people in the room viewing the dressmaker's dummy that took us back to the sunroom in the house where my grandparents lived.  My grandfather would write to us every week and often would talk of Nan having ladies over for a fitting.  I think of her with a dress on the dummy, a mouthful of pins and the fancy cheval mirror for the ladies to view their new clothes when they tried them on.

The Mail Room: definitely seems like a place in the past.  These days I can work in an office for months without even printing out a page of paper.  Back then the mail routine was crucial for keeping in touch with people in other towns, buildings and even offices.  In the bottom half of the photo are lots of mail bags to be filled with letters.  I remember folding letters in offices so the address appeared in the window of the envelope.  My early days in the office of sticky labels and mail merge might seem old fashioned today but the computers would have seemed fancy to those before me who used a lot of longhnad writing. 

This collage is of some of the parts of the exhibition that made me feel nostalgic.  

  • At the top right is an old telephone - I have very vague memories of these old black phones in my early childhood.  So solid!  
  • Next to the phone is a pile of old keys.  We don't get keys like this very often these days.  In fact I work in a building where I have never seen keys because everything is entered by swiping cards.  I am not sure what happens in a power blackout.  
  • The rubber stamps made me nostalgic for days when I had rubber stamps to enter dates or "faxed" or other useful words.  They are needed less and less now as our files and correspondence are more and more online.  
  • A typewriter was exciting to us as kids to push those clunky keys up and down to write.  Computers have never had anything to replace the satisfaction of pushing the carriage return lever at the end of a line.  
  • Bottom right is the electric jug.  My parents have always drunk a lot of tea and used to have similar ceramic electric jugs that got dangerously hot when they boiled.  
  • And finally the National Bank calendar.  I grew up always having one of these hanging on the back of the toiler door! 

The Switchboard Room: this is so evocative of another time when phone calls were far more central in our lives.  In the present day of smart phones, email and internet, phone calls don't feature so much in our lives. I no longer have a landline at work or home and even finding a phone number can be challenging.  My dad was telling me he met someone who worked may years ago on the telephone exchange in the town where I grew up.  Apparently she did not stay there long as she did not like the people.  Goodness knows what she heard on those calls!

The Typing Pool: made me quite nostalgic for the days as a child when my dad took me to his office when he went in on a weekend.  It was quite exciting when we went there.  People in offices seemed very glamourous.  We'd bash at the keys on the typewriters and pretend to take phone calls.  I wouldn't be surprised if we were also pretending to smoke cigarettes while we did it.  I was still a university student when I bought my first computer.  Before that most of my work was longhand but I did write some essays on a borrowed electric typewriter.  Rone's team sourced 14 vintage typewriters for this room but had to give a vintage feel to new desks.  It was great to walk about and read what was being typed on different typewriters.

The Waiting Room: the place to wait to speak with the boss.  The desk is for the secretary to manage who went in.  My dad almost sat down on the couch and then remembered it was part of the exhibition and not to be touched.

Head Office: is where the boss sits.  I wish I had an office like this.  So much space.  Big windows.  Beautiful wooden filing cabinets.  Pressed metal wall.  I could just do without the layers of dust.  And I don't like people looking over my shoulder when I work.  I think Don Draper would have been at home here.

I am sad to leave this place.  Although it feels like it has always been there, it has been so neglected, it would not surprise me to return and find it had crumbled to nothing more than dust.  The same beauty in the well crafted is also present in the decay.  Rone started out as a street artist so he knows a bit about transience.  Nothing lasts. 

But wait, there's more!

The Newsagency: amazingly once we are step outside the Flinders Street Station and walk towards the clocks, we come across one final installation.  Newsagency would have thrived in these shop in mid Century with all the comuters passing by on their way to and from the trains.  They would take newspapers from the stacks and perhaps peruse the magazines on the racks along the wall.

Relevant links

Sunday 19 March 2023

Grampians: Halls Gap Zoo

Before going for our holiday to the Grampians a friend suggested it was worth going to the Halls Gap Zoo.  I had passed it before and my city mind expected it could not impress me like our Melbourne zoo.  But it did.  The zoo was spacious with mountain views.  It was not like a city zoo when you knew that outside the high walls was the bustle and concrete of the big smoke.  It was a lovely zoo but we would have enjoyed it more if the weather had been cooler.

 It starts with a note of the effects of covid on the financial ability to improve the zoo.

Meerkats are so much fun to watch.  They always have a lookout.

As always we stayed to watch the giraffes for a bit.  They are such elegant animals.

In fact if I had read the signs when I paid I might have noticed that we were there at the same time they had a feed the giraffes time when you could pay $60 for the privilege.  I consoled myself that it seemed a busy session and that they could feed but not not stroke those velvety looking giraffes.  Surely they have enough neck for everyone!

There were quite a few birds but they are difficult to photograph.  And the cassowary scares me.  This kookaburra in the sculpture garden was pretty cute.

Hey there lonely lizard, plotting his escape!

The zoo had lots of areas where animals roamed free, especially the little wallabies that were so good at blending with their backgrounds.  But there were often pairs of gates to walk through to stop the animals following us out of their area.

It would be no surprise that the dingo was kept in his cage.  He looked fierce enough chewing on an old bone.

This deer wandered around for a bit with us. 

 I felt sorry for the rhino in the dry and dusty yard.

The ostrich reminded me of the pink Ozzy Ostrich puppet on Hey Hey It's Saturday.  Which probably means it is unusual for me to see an ostrich.  His flouncy ballerina skirt is so much bigger than the one on the one our native emus wear.

The Texas Longhorn would be used to this heat but the Hairy Coo from Scotland was huddled under a shady shelter.

I am not sure I have ever seen such long curly horns on a goat before.  I liked the pile of stones for the goats to climb.

I was less excited by the emu as we had already seen some at liberty around our holiday cottage.  We would have preferred to see more of the wombat who was sleeping in the shade with just a cute little snout sticking ou.


And no zoo is complete without a dinosaur!  This gave us a laugh at the end when we were tired from a long hot work around the zoo.  The air conditioned gif shop felt so good.

 These kids drawings that were made into hoardings along the path were also pretty cute.

I am sure we will return sometime when we are in the Grampians.  Maybe next time I will pay to spend more time with the giraffes.  I am sure there are animals we didn't see on our first visit as there is a lot to see.

Halls Gap Zoo
4061 Ararat-Halls Gap Rd, Halls Gap
(03) 5356 4668
Open 10am-5pm 7 days a week
Adult entry: $38, child $19

More Grampians posts:

Monday 13 March 2023

In my Kitchen: March 2023

It is March in my kitchen.  I hope it will be more relaxed than February.  Three trips away in about 5 weeks made February a lot of work as two of the trips were for events I was organising.  But I also feel lucky to go to interesting places, even if I am sort of glad I decided not to head on the work trip next week.  It feels like everyone is trying to catch up on summer for the first time in 3 years.  I have also had some time in lieu, birthday celebrations, the Sydney Road Street Festival and a visit to an amazing exhibition I will write about soon.  Some fun food shopping but not that much cooking.  And I read my first book of the year cover to cover on the weekend.  Finally!

The above photo is of a birthday lunch I made for a few of my family.  Sylvia was keen on nachos and who ever says no to nachos!  I wanted to make something else and rediscovered this voracious vegan pate- I haven't made it for ages but it was really satisfying with the sides of guacamole, coleslaw, salsa, yoghurt either wrapped in a tortilla or eaten with the nachos.  Sylvia made punch and .....

.... we made a vegan chocolate cake to have fun with decorations.  We wanted to use the cake wheel and scrapers that I had got for Christmas.  Sylvia suggested dots of colour on the cake but I wanted to try piping rainbow colours around the edge.  It wasn't at all perfect so I have just collated a collage of how we did it - Sylvia has showed me this technique for coloured meringues before and it was fun to try it with buttercream.  We did a crumb coat, arranged lines of coloured buttercream on clingfilm.  Wrapped it into a cylinder, cut the edge and then inserted into a piping bag (cut side down) and piped it onto the cake. 

The result was an overwhelmingly green cake but there are much worse colours that might dominate!  And the cake was as reliably delicious as usual.  A bit much buttercream icing for my liking but I put quite a bit of it aside.

We bought a few interesting groceries at the supermarket.  The Bluey pizza crackers were fun with imprints of Bluey characters in the crackers. The chocolate drizzled popcorn was great.  I wanted to try a non-alcoholic magarita but it was salty and odd.  (I think I had a margarita years ago but can't remember the taste).  Sylvia liked the inclusive oreos packaging.  And she also chose the Golden Gaytime cake mix.

Sylvia loves to cook spaghetti lately and always has leftovers.  We love a bit of crispy cheesy leftover spaghetti on home made pizza.  My mum often cuts her pizza with scissors so I decided to do than once the pizza had cooled slightly.  As you will see, they don't always cook that stright.

My mum makes tomato sauce every year.  She has these massive preserving pans.  And we always had Fowlers jars in our pantry but she hasn't found the orange seals for the jars anywhere this year.  This year she had to be strategic about finding a cheap box of tomatoes.  There is a tomato shortage being reported in the news for families who made passata and sauce.  What the news does not report is that Ezy sauce has gone out of business.  My mum has always made tomato sauce using Ezy sauce so this was bad news for her.  So she tried using an online recipe to use her own Ezy sauce and was happy with her sauce.  I look forward to tasting it.  My dad helped with the tomato sauce this year as you can see in the photo.

One of my recent work meetings was at Cape Schanck RACV resort.  It is odd to stay in a place surrounded by a golf course.  I'd prefer to see the beach out the window than the driving green.  But I really impressed by the array of food at the breakfast buffet.  Not just the usual beans, hash browns, tomatoes and mushrooms.  I could also add avocado, cheese and broccolini.  I really loved a hearty breakfast because the days were busy and long.

And then there was a visit to USA Foods in Moorabbin.  It was quite a drive which is a good thing as there were so many temptations for both of us.  Sylvia was so excited to try Eggos because she loved Stranger Things.  These were so easy and so delicious.  We had them with chocolate ice cream, maple syrup and I had berries and Sylvia had sprinkles.

Here are some of the savoury snacks we bought.  We've both wanted to try Goldfish crackers.  They are so cute but the only box we could buy was huge and terribly expensive ($28).  Not pictures is the Cheese-its which impressed me a bit less.  Sylvia was very excited about the Cheetos mac and cheese in a box.  She also had read about the Takis.  I loved the blue colour but they were too spicy.  I think there are still some in the pantry.  Whereas those Munchies - Cheese Fix mix of corn chips, cheetos, waves and pretzels went very quickly because it was irresistible.

We loved looking at all the American drinks.  The Butterscotch beer was all faux Harry Potter on the labels and it also tasted like lots of chemicals and way too sweet.  I was tempted by the Wicked Apple Brew but concerned about the fact there was absolutely no apple juice in the ingredients.  It was more drinkable than the Butterscotch beer but not great.

Here's some of the sweet USA treats.  Mostly Sylvia's choices: Nerds, Jolly Ranchers, Twinkies, Donettes and Pilsbury Strawberry Cake mix.  I chose the 3 Musketeers bar because I remember having these as a child and they take me back.  Did they ever sell them in Australia?  Sylvia enjoyed the rest of it except the Donettes which she only bought because she loves the Brooklyn 99 scene where Jake eats a messy sugary doughnut in Amy's car.  The donettes were really dry so they were given to her dad.  That strawberry cake was a bit intense in the strawberry flavouring but it was a nice pink.

Sylvia had a very lowkey but enjoyable birthday this year.  My mum dropped in with cakes and we had a special brunch and pizza for tea.  And these gorgeous biscuits (cookies) were dropped off by a colleague who is an amazing baker.

We also bought some bisquick at the USA foods because it was on special and I was curious.  Sylvia wanted choc chip pancakes and I wanted just chocolate between them so we compromised on pancakes with choc chips melted on one side.

Sylvia had made the Golden Gaytime cake but had toffee icing and butterscotch crumbs leftover so I used them to make Golden Gaytime pancakes.  The toffee icing was a bit sweet but I think some vanilla ice cream might have been good with these pancakes.

Finally I had a busy first weekend in March which included a trip to Pentridge shopping centre for a Vintage Market.  It was busy but not the sort of stalls we were after.  So we went to IGA which had lots of great salads.  I bought this Spanish Grain Salad which was excellent.  It had farro, black lentils, figs, salad dressing, romanescu dressing, sunflower seeds and almonds.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event.  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens and her gorgeous hand drawn header.