As part of the State of Design Festival in 2011, BUS Projects created a mobile gallery in the back of a mid-sized hire truck. Shunning furniture for art, the truck trundled around Melbourne bringing art to the streets. As well as three installations, the truck hosted a series of gigs featuring avant-garde musicians and sound artists. The aim of the project was to bring contemporary art into public spaces, reaching out to people who might not normally go to galleries, while taking part in the ongoing debate about public art in the city.
Curating in public spaces can be tricky. Ros Bandt’s sound and video installation was parked outside the Exhibition Centre while the Designers Market was going on inside. Bandt used the truck as it came, projecting her video, a long view of Sydney Rd, onto the dark walls. Metal supports cut through the picture, and the dark ground soaked up the light, making the picture difficult to see. The sound work – a beautifully mixed collection of street sounds punctuated by the Islamic call to prayer – came through headphones. However, like the limitations imposed on the picture quality by the truck, the sound was hard to hear.
Bandt’s work is about public spaces, which is why I don’t think it works in public spaces. By taking the sounds of the streets off the streets, re-mixing them and playing them in a gallery, Bandt makes us listen. In the blank gallery we hear sounds that are often swamped by other senses when we are in the world. In the truck, Bandt’s sounds brought one world into another, but the real noise surrounding the truck – what was happening right then, right there – was too exciting.
More successful was Dylan Martorell’s zany music workshop, parked beside a square of grass outside the Footscray train station. Like a mad sound scientist’s lair, the truck was packed with makeshift instruments. Xylophones were made out of old cans and fed through pedals to create looped and twisted sounds. Here, anything that could be found in a $2 shop became an instrument: balls, feather dusters, plastic pots were all stuck together like bits of Meccano to create a colourful gamelan orchestra. His speakers, wrapped in frayed tarpaulin and fastened with ocky straps onto removalist trolleys, looked like the creations of an eccentric hobo artist. It is this chaotic, nomadic style that makes Martorell’s work so welcoming.
Continuously being re-developed, Footscray has an unstable aesthetic. The old Dimmeys building sits gutted and crumbling in the centre of town, and the shops around it are pulled down and built up again. Martorell’s chaotic wonderland was perfectly placed here, an example of relational aesthetics at its best. People, ordinary citizens of Footscray, coming and going from the station stopped and felt comfortable enough to jump up into the truck and play. I, sometimes shy when it comes to interactive exhibitions, hit a large metal plate, and Martorell sent the resounding ‘gong’ through a loop. The deep airy echoes floated out into the afternoon.