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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Brockhaus Leipzig map 1897Does Colleen Morris think Drummoyne is "awesomely hideous" with "immense tonnages of concrete and ugliness"?

Is it "bestial, breathtaking horror" that she feels when confronted by the suburb's "profoundly antihuman environment"? Possibly John Birmingham (Leviathan, 1999, p 372) would

... expect to create [such] if you pollinated the grossest excesses of triumphant capitalism with the aesthetic sensibilities of whatever engineering department the Romanian secret police tasked with fitting out the torture chambers in their blank-faced, ferroconcrete punishment palaces. (p 372)

Morris merely says "So much has changed. So little remains."

The suburb did not "resist the Sydney land grab for long" as John Huxley writes in today's The Sydney Morning Herald (p 7).

Birmingham is more colourful. Drummoyne was ripped apart in the early 1970s by "architects and developers with little or no sympathy for the nuances of history and the needs of the human beings who must actually live inside their nightmares" (p 236).

In the top map - Brockhaus of Leipzig, 1897 - the label on the peninsula is 'Hythe' and the continuous strip of Victoria Road is seen traversing the Parramatta River where the Gladesville Bridge now sits.

Off Birkenhead lie Snapper Island and Spectacle Island, just this side of Cockatoo Island (which is labelled on the SMH map).

Colleen Morris in Drummoyne, SMH, 17 June 2008
Morris will publish a book titled Lost Gardens of Sydney with the Historic Houses Trust. It comes out in August.

Drummoyne House and grounds estate sale notice, 1894, SMH, 17 June 2008
This is the way to "imagine" history in Sydney - the word is Richard Stanton's, from his All News Is Local (2007). In fact, it's one of the only ways to talk about history without coming across as a rabid Tory.

Either that, or sport or war. The wonderful sculptures (by Cathy Weiszmann) being commissioned by the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust are evidence that it is possible to validly render historical figures in Australia.

But only just. Similarly, you can buy work by the man who gave us the recent New Zealand mate to the ANZAC bronze who has faced west for the best part of a decade at the Balmain end of the ANZAC Bridge.

Alan Somerville's other work is available from Frances Keevil Gallery. The show is on at 2 Danks Street, Waterloo, until 28 June.

Drummoyne House, SMH, 17 June 2008

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