Billie suggested meeting at the Portrait Gallery for a cuppa, as we often do. I asked whether I could join her beforehand for part of her walk round the bridges – could she stand to go that slowly? She said to meet her at the National Library at 0930 (by which time she’d already done her walk).
When it’s already hot at 0930, I know I’m in trouble. Nevertheless, it wasn’t going to be a long walk, so I didn’t even wear my visor.
We set off across Reconciliation Place, a promenade of artworks opened in 2002, which links the library with the High Court. It would be possible to spend hours investigating what’s there, but we kept up a steady pace through the growing heat.
Two problems occurred to us as we passed through: the state of disrepair of many of the works, and the predominance of sound recordings.
The National Capital Authority is responsible for the maintenance of Reconciliation Place, as it is for the whole Parliamentary Triangle. It’s had its budget slashed in recent years. Letting the national capital aspects of Canberra degrade is a wickedness, but who cares? As long as the media insists on calling the federal government “Canberra”, no one much.
Reconciliation Place was only opened in 2002: it’s not auspicious for reconciliation that its displays are left broken.
I hadn’t come across sound recordings attached to outdoor exhibits before. Somewhere online I read that the recordings were motion-sensitive, but Billie and I thought they were going continuously. As a musician (once upon a time, anyway) I’m sensitised to sound, and I vehemently believe it should be opt-in. If I could hold an umbrella, I’d carry one at all times in the hope of poking out the muzak speakers in lifts, for example. 🙂
One of the displays was in fact opt-in, but when I tried to press the button, it was broken.
After a quick look at the newly-repaired High Court fountain (one of my favourite things: the water looks like tartan) we walked straight into the cafe at the Portrait Gallery (called, quaintly enough, Portrait Cafe) and settled down at our usual table for morning tea.
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
The Gallery was showing a special exhibition called Impressions: Painting light and life, consisting of portraits by, and of, artists at the heart of Australian impressionism. It was lovely but, even though we sat down when we’d finished the first room, we had to go back to the cafe for a rest after the second room. By the time we’d been round all three rooms, I was feeling quite exhausted.
Painting on loan to the exhibition from the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Nevertheless we had to walk back across Reconciliation Place. The heat had increased, as it was the middle of the day. Almost in sight of our cars, outside the Questacon, I had to stop in the shade for a while.
Billie took some photos of us holding the Danish flag, for a project she’s doing for the 70th birthday of her brother-in-law in Denmark. Then we said goodbye and I came home in time for a late lunch. I was so flattened by the heat that I spent the rest of the day in my chair. My left arm ached and I worried I was having a stroke, but I kept telling myself it was more likely to be the result of lugging my handbag over what had added up to a considerable distance!