Agatha Gothe-Snape is creating a new public artwork for our City Art collection, but she’s not interested in erecting any monuments. She wants to offer people a way to experience their city in a new way.
Her artwork Here, an Echo, which is a collaboration between the City and the 20th Biennale of Sydney, will affix a series of words and phrases onto Wemyss Lane in Surry Hills. Inspired by local conversations, interviews and performances, the text-based work will bring poetry to a location that might otherwise escape our attention. Agatha says:
I spent many months traipsing through inner Sydney and thinking about the city and its public spaces. One day, after a storm, I came across Wemyss Lane. It’s an interesting part of the city – you have the rich history of Oxford Street and its glittering nights, the formality of Hyde Park, the commute of workers from Central to the city centre and other experiences all converging here. I was also enamoured by the buildings that back onto it – the Gemmology House and the Philas House, both of which hark back to a time when organisations needed a monumental physical space.
The artwork will see large text, similar to the type used to mark roads that implore us to ‘slow down’ or ‘look right’, thrown up on the lane and surrounding buildings. The interpretation of the text will be left up to the viewer. This is because Agatha believes in the gentle way public art can capture the history and activity of the streetscape and bring a fresh awareness of the city to people walking by: “I really think art in the public realm has an incredible potential to pose open-ended questions and offer insight into things that aren’t immediately understood. People enjoy things that aren’t completely obvious – this leaves spaces for them to fill in the blanks – the space between the words.”
Public input will also help form the final artwork. Here, an Echo will be composed of Sydney’s various stories gathered via the artist’s performance-walk through the city. Together with dancer and choreographer Brooke Stamp, Agatha’s research partner in the artwork’s development, the artist will take multiple walks from Speaker’s Corner in the Domain to Wemyss Lane.
Everyone is invited to take part – experts in the history of the sites, the residents and businesses of Wemyss Lane and other artists. All the while, Agatha will keep a dossier of her conversations with the community. “Then, my process as an artist is (to put all of this) into a sieve, to produce the textual remnants that will be shown in the lane. Hopefully it will speak to all types of people,” she says.
Agatha continues, “I am interested in meeting and talking to the businesses that surround the laneway and I’d like to get to know the residents of the adjoining apartments better too. I’ve had my haircut at Sterling Apothecary, had a tour of Gemmology and Philas houses and continue to have functions at Harry’s Hotel.”
This tour is not in itself theatre or performance art, but a way to bring the process of generating the artwork’s material into the public eye. “Walking through the city is important, as this is how public can witness me gleaning the information,” says Agatha.
The 20th Biennale of Sydney will form Agatha’s research period and the artwork is due to be completed by the end of this year. It has been commissioned by the City of Sydney as a permanent work for 25 years. Book to take part in the walks on 5 June 2016.