Monday, 7 May 2012

Arch for Reconciliation

Arch for Reconciliation (1997) by Brian Paulusz  is located on the Maribyrnong River frontage to the Footscray arts precinct. Although the work itself is 15 years old, aerial photographs confirm my suspicions that it was installed at this site much more recently -  mid to late 2009 it seems.

The year the work was completed was the year that various state governments issued apologies to the aboriginal population for past government practices that included the removal of children from their families. Two years later the federal government under John Howard moved a 'Motion of Reconciliation' but rejected  calls for an apology. The arch seems to have been installed at this site in the lead-up to the federal government apology in November 2009, an event that has also been commemorated artistically elsewhere.

The arch is constructed from basalt and the tool marks that provide evidence of the difficulty in crafting this form from such a hard material are present on the surface of the work.

The joins between different slabs of basalt are clearly visible, which combined with the asymmetry of the arch and a slight 'bow-leggedness' give the impression of a delicate balance. The kind of arch created by a child with toy building blocks. However, this potential for fragility is offset by the bulkiness of the heavy stone at the base that grounds the work, compared to the relative slenderness of the top. There is a visual tension between the solidity and fragility.

The arch also provides opportunity for a physical experience. Rather than just looking at the work you can pass through it, as well as feeling the texture of the worked rock. Or you can line up views through the arch of the surrounding landmarks and passing traffic.