‘To touch or strike a fondant ground [north and south propositions]’ is the second in a series of exhibition reading rooms centred around genealogy, familial history, material kinship, queer modes of reading and resistance.
As a follow-up to ‘A sonorous draft; a lexicon of windjamming’ (Blindside Gallery, 2021), this work takes up residence in the reading room and window exhibition spaces at Bus Projects (the ‘north proposition’ of the title) and West Space (the ‘south proposition’ of the title, which opens on 19 November).
The co-hosting of this project at proximal, collaborative galleries within Collingwood Yards—a former and current site for artistic pedagogy and trade located on stolen Wurundjeri land—gestures towards the architectural adjacencies and entangled histories of two bridgehead buildings in the Austrian city of Linz. These buildings—which in part house the Kunstuniversität Linz (University of Art and Design Linz) and a 2009 project by the German artist Hito Steyerl, Der Bau (The Building)—provide a direct material pathway to the artist’s paternal grandfather’s enslaved labours during World War II. From 1940 to 1945, Antoni Kotlarczyk worked as a wood-worker, mason-worker and seamstress in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex, which took in the Wiener Graben granite quarry, established to furnish Adolf Hitler’s dream of making Linz the new neoclassical metropolis of the Danube river. As charted in ‘Der Bau’ and Steyerl’s essay ‘Aesthetics of Resistance’, the Bridgehead Buildings, along with the Nibelungenbrücke (Nibelungen Bridge), were constructed from 1940 to 1943, in part by prisoners of war using granite from the Mauthausen-Gusen quarry. It is believed, despite the opacity of intergenerational silence, that Antoni worked on this project along the banks of the Danube where these structures still exist today. The bridge and adjacent buildings were the only successful renditions of Hitler’s failed plans for the city of Linz.
As a site of intergenerational and material recuperation, this exhibition honours the artist’s grandfather’s labours during those years: of hands immersed in earth; of diligent tasks of stitching, incorporating, building. Against this history of brutal enforced labours rendering tyrannical monuments, these renditions envision new blueprints that dwell in the soft bodies of local Merri Creek clays and their vegetal and bacterial kin, as found around the artist’s home in Fawkner. Impressions of these bodies carried through papers and gum arabic polymer both support and affectively divest from the holding of hard, intrusive rock used to fortify the colonial settler state of so-called Australia—the land to which Antoni migrated in 1949—thereby also foregrounding the difficult histories of our current sites for knowledge production.
The broader project to which this work belongs is conceived of as a mattered mode of inheritance and a symbolic genealogical bridge tethering the artist’s grandfather and non-biological children. This iteration takes up the premise of the strike in its various geological, human and political dimensions, as a mode of withdrawal from the corrupted determinisms of mastery and essentialist genealogies, and a nod to the literal work of stonemasonry and labour strikes. In considering what Claire Fontaine describes as the human strike “designating the most generic movement of revolt against any oppresive condition,” this work leans into iconic works of queer resistance—namely David Wojnarowicz’s ‘Untitled (Face in Dirt)’ (1992-93) and Derek Jarman’s ‘Blue’ (1993)—to assert the need for intimate, poetic fault-and-desire-lines to live in the after-and-present-lives of slavery. As Kathryn Yusoff writes: “The violence of grammars of geology must…develop a mode of writing that speaks beyond the objecthood of geologic materiality to its inhuman and inhumane dimensions, as material praxis and subjective condition.”
Johnston Street Building
35 Johnston Street
The Johnston Street Lift, located immediately inside 35B Johnston Street (LG) provides access to levels UG, 1 and 2. 35A Johnston Street provides a footpath and ramp to the Automatic door entrance to level UG. From 35C Johnston Street, there is a footpath and ramp leading to the Johnston Street lift and external staircase.
The only at level access paths to Johnston Street UG are via Entrance 35A Johnston Street or 30A Perry Street. The at level access paths to Johnston Street Building LG are via 35B and 35C Johnston Street. The access path to Johnston Street Building L1 and L2 requires use of the Johnston Street Lift.
Accessible toilets are located within the Johnston Street Building on Level UG and Level 1, toward the western end of the building near entrance 35A Johnston Street. Accessible toilets are also located at the eastern end of the Johnston Street Building on Level LG, near the Music Market co-working space. These toilets are open throughout office and event hours. All accessible toilets are equipped with manual locks, exit buttons and grab rails.