This public artwork was commissioned as a contemporary interpretation of the heritage significance of the colonial naval docks located under the new wing of the MCA. In an alcove just to the side of the museum’s entrance, a sculptural LED arrow, measuring over two metres in length, pulsates with a dynamic pattern of radiating rectangular shapes. The arrow directs our gaze to seven lines of poetry written by Andrew and engraved into the concrete forecourt. As the artist says, readers following the text will walk along ‘a dock’s edge, water edge, imaginary edge of the archaeology and sandstone under the earth. Visitors will not only be physically drawn to the arrow from far across Circular Quay, especially during evening times, but will congregate to contemplate the text which specifically speaks to the site as Sydney Cove. This arrow and text mark the present site as a historical and colonial ship-building port, docks and architecture’.1
The zig-zag pattern used in the LED arrow is derived from Andrew’s mother’s Wiradjuri ancestors. For the Wiradjuri, the radial diamond pattern was an important cultural marker, used on shields and dendroglyphs (marked trees). The artist’s strobing application is a metaphor for ‘our dizzying and electric contemporary societies built on capitalist and first class notions of identity and success’. This mesmerising pattern draws the viewer in towards the ‘earthy prose set in the ground’. For the artist, the prose functions ‘like a window into the earth below, offering words reflecting on the history of the site’.2
“The choice to use text in the work was carefully considered: The text hints at lost or covered histories. History revived through public art is often a tricky task. I think history – whose history? – can mean different things to different people. There is a tendency to be too literal or maybe see a point in history as more romantic than it actually was. Or perhaps history was wrongly written and recorded. I am always aware that what we read today is often laced with personal perspectives and has most probably changed from the original event.
I was interested in reflecting on the romance of the site and what it was, and in addressing the dream-like qualities of history and how we perceive histories in different ways.”3
Anne Loxley (Curator, C3West) and artist Brook Andrew
1 Brook Andrew, Public art proposal for MCA new building: ‘Warrang’ (Sydney Cove), April 2010
3 Brook Andrew, email to Anne Loxley, 23 November 2011