View Transmission Lines 1955 to 1974 in a larger map.
29 August 2008
22 August 2008
As a writer-artist who works with text and narrative, I am interested in the possibilities of artist publishing. I am interested in how these media and publications can bring the personal and the public into contact, making the personal a little more exposed and the public a little more private. I only ever make small overtures to these ideas, rarely grand statements or gestures. So I do acknowledge that I am just scratching the surface and going for the obvious. I'm also defining some limits for users - this isn't a utopian, wikinomics type experience - in terms of what can be added or changed on the sites. So there are many other places you can go with Web 2.0 like Wiki and video sharing and other things.
There's also a lot of conversation happening in the background of the work. Uncovering all these materials - the map, the photographs and the tapes - has prompted conversations around the family circle. Just a couple of weeks ago, my older sister and I were driving off the Gateway Bridge at the southern end where we encountered a fairly impressive and dense array of transmission lines. My sister asked me, "Do you remember dad calling them alta linea?" Alta linea is the Italian for 'high lines'. That is probably the title I should give the project or some addition to it in the future.
The biting question is what this project has to do with artists' books. For me, it's always interesting to look at things from the outer edge. I'm not for a second suggesting that this work is an artist's book, but I do suggest that it shares some commonalities with artists' books. There is a line of flight (or several lines of flight) between them. We know they are not the same, but the boundary that distinguishes them is quite unclear. And there's been quite a lot of literature that talks about tendencies in artists books and publishing. At a Mackay Artists' Book Forum a few years ago, Sydney-based artist Nola Farman talked about the 'fugitive'. And for me that's a exhilaratingly uncertain and rebellious space to inhabit. So I think, in these electronic spaces, we're really exploring multiple literacies, perhaps fugitive literacies. And there is even more literature about the question of digital literacies. But, as Nola says in her conference paper, the narrative of the fugitive is usually unresolved. When a something (an object, subject, event) ceases to be on the run or in hiding, it ceases to be fugitive.
My sense of the work is that it doesn't - can't - stay still. It needs to be invented and reinvented. So I'm also exploring ways of developing this work as an online book using the Diffusion Generator produced by Proboscis, a UK artist group and consultancy. The eventual book will be downloadable for free. I'm also thinking about a series of prints using the photographs. There's more that can be done with elements to tell the story in many and varied ways. Or alternately, to tell different stories from the same elements.
The map is central in this project. There's an explosion of social mapping in the online world and the group I just mentioned, Proboscis, are innovators in this area and they do a lot of work with mobile media, mash ups and social media. About 20 years ago, a project I was working on organised to bring Sue Clifford from Common Ground to Brisbane. Sue was a great advocate of social mapping and exploring psycho-geography and Common Ground developed very important quilting and other community art projects that focused on mapping, environment and place. So I have had an abiding fascination with topography and cartography - having spent much time exploring postmodern theory, I was very interested in the relationships between the cartographic and trajective imaginary and narrative.
So there's a new awareness of mapping and various DIY practices of cartography which are becoming integral to our storytelling. Even the mainstream media are seeing the value with projects like ABC Earth which pegs news stories to places. The term 'neogeography' descrived the merging of user data and experiences with online mapping technologies. So really, we're just talking about a more subjective engagement with mapping and charting space and talking about the map as narrative. This relationship between map and story is what I am exploring.
My family often recalls our lives as an itinerary. First we lived here, then worked there, then moved elsewhere. Much of that was, of course, framed by my father's working life. This project gives you a way into that.
21 August 2008
16 August 2008
Also, having now done the talk, I'll develop some of those ideas for the blog. In particular, I will do some more writing about neogeography and psycho-geography as well as reflect more on how Web 2.0 can be used for writing projects. As I mentioned in my talk, unlike many of my colleagues and peers, I don't specifically develop technology for my writing projects and am quite content to explore or use existing tools and platforms as writing spaces.
26 July 2008
20 July 2008
I will now be able to put a bit more time into Transmission Lines and address some inconsistencies and niggling details over the next little while. So today, after reviewing the project planning, I will be get cracking on new tasks.
Also, Susan from the State Library mentioned that the work, on exhibit at the State Library of Queensland as part of Freestyle Books, has been quite popular among visitors. I was quite heartened to hear this. Please feel free to make comments - this blog has that capacity - and add your own thoughts to this work. You just have to click on the 'Comments' link at the bottom of each post. Then you will be presented with an input field and some options for identification. Comments can be anonymous but I will be moderating to keep inappropriate content out.
Regarding Freestyle Books, which I went to see the other day, I just wanted to say what a splendid job Helen Cole has done as the exhibition curator. You can't handle the books, which is always a difficult decision for curators and collections, and this has been addressed by showing several of the works on projected video including Ten Menhirs (1984) by my partner, JM John Armstrong.
18 June 2008
In the meantime, please make sure you go to see the exhibition Freestyle Books at the State Library of Queensland, opening 27 June.
12 June 2008
More information about Freestyle Books is available at http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/freestylebooks
08 June 2008
07 June 2008
c. 1990/1, Queensland. My father was approaching 60 years of age.
LC: Can you tell me when you came to Australia?
LC: How did you come?
QC: Well, I was working for a company in Italy and, well, they asked me if I wanted to come to Australia. I thought it was a good choice for me, you know, and here I am.
LC: What were you – what was the company – doing?
QC: Building power lines.
LC: And when you came to Australia, did you start building power lines here?
LC: For the same company?
QC: Well, different name but it was the same company.
LC: And was that company working on the Snowy Mountain Scheme?
QC: Well, after a while, we went to the Snowy Mountains. After a few years. The first job was in Blacktown, building a power line from Chullora to Canterbury (1956).
LC: So, after you worked on that you went to the Snowy Mountains. Then what did you do?
QC: Well, build more power lines down in – we came to Queensland from the Snowy Mountains and built a power line from Tully to ???. Not really, that was from Townsville. We were camping at Tully (1956/57).
LC: Camping? So what were the camps like?
QC: Oh, it was not too bad. You know, it was huts. It had about three or four people each hut. We had a cook to cook for us. It was not too bad. It was nothing special.
LC: So when you were in the camp, what did you do when you weren’t working?
QC: When we weren’t working, we used to play cards between ourselves, or go to the pub, or go out to a dance, or whatever we could find.
LC: Did you play soccer?
QC: I played soccer once in Ingham, I played soccer in Darwin. Another time in Blacktown and also at Biggendon. That’s it I think. (Note: He is talking about competitive soccer.)
LC: I thought you played more soccer than that?
QC: Not in Australia. (Note: QC played in soccer fixtures in his home town in Italy as a boy and young man.)
LC: I thought even at work, in the camps?
QC: We played around the camp. You know, we played nearly every evening. (Note: So after a day of back breaking work, they found the energy to play soccer!)
LC: What were the wages like when you were working?
QC: It was not too bad because we were doing quite a bit of overtime and, you know, we had had very little school (Note: My father had to leave school in grade three or four to work). It wasn’t very easy to get any other job, plus the language was a problem for us, because we were all Italian there [in the work environment], we didn’t really need to speak English. If we needed something in English, we’d go and ask the clerk or someone and it was done.
LC: Did you ever have a chance to learn English while you were working?
QC: After I became a leading hand, after a while I had to start speaking with Inspectors and things like that. That’s when I started learning.
LC: So the whole company was Italian? What about engineers and people working higher up?
QC: Mostly Italian. There weren’t many Australians (Note: he means Anglo-Australians or English-speaking Australians) with us for the first 10 or 15 years. After that a few engineers came in, but mostly it was new Australians – Italians, Spanish, Yugoslav. And they all had to learn Italian because that was the main language spoken around there.
LC: Did everyone get on well?
QC: Mostly. Once in a while somebody had an argument, but it wasn’t because he was Greek or Italian.
LC: You’ve worked all over Australia. What were the jobs you worked on?
QC: I can see what I remember. The first job was in Blacktown (Note: He is probably referring to Chullora, 1956), from Blacktown we went to Engadine and we did a job there - from Waterfall down to Wollongong (c. 1957). After, from Wollongong, we went to Moss Vale and we did a power line from Yass to Wollongong (c. 1958) – more or less – Dapto. And after, from there, we went up and did a line to the Snowy Mountains. That was from Yass to Cabramurra. And after, from there, we went down to Penrith and built a power line, a small job, from Blacktown to Penrith. After that we went down to South Australia and we built a power line from Port Augusta to Whyalla (1964). From there, we went back to Port Kembla, worked about a year there and we built a log bridge to take the material from the ship to the depot (1965). From there, we went back to Moss Vale, Goulburn, Yass, you know, from Yass to Dapto again to build another power line (1966). Well, I should write it down. I can't remember any more. (Note: This work was done between 1956 to 1966.)
Some fragments and quotes will soon be entered into the blog and attached to sites marked on the map.
06 June 2008
Despite yesterday's wind and rain, work continued on the latest power line to cross the Swan River. These workmen climbed the 70 foot steel pylon on reclaimed land near the East Perth power house (background). The work is part of a program to upgrade the power line from Kwinana to East Perth.
03 June 2008
The article features an interview with Dr Enzo Oriolo, Managing Director of EPT, who said that the company motto was "One tower per gang per day".
He discusses the 90 mile line between Yass and Tumut, which piped the first major output of the Snowy hydro-turbines into the NSW grid.
Mr Oriolo's reference to the 'art of threading cables' has some resonance. When speaking with my mother about my dad's work, she said that he had a reputation for having the 'right touch' for the lines. I'm not sure if this was mentioned earlier, but my mother also told me that no one ever died in any of my father's gang when he was a foreman. And, as you can imagine, there were fatal accidents in this industry.
27 May 2008
My father worked for SAE (Milan) & went to Australia to work with EPT from 1951 till 1962 when he returned to work with SAE until he retired. The whole family (my mother and two brothers ) went with him to Australia. SAE was the parent company which owned EPT and my father was seconded to EPT. He was one of the first to go to Sydney, I believe in the middle of 1951. The first "camp" with steel deposits, machinery, motor works was in MENAI (near Sutherland), subsequently a major works with galvanizing plant, offices, steel deposits etc. was built and managed till 1958 by my father, who subsequently worked as chief engineer in the Sydney headquarters of EPT. Incidentally my father also had a church built on the Marayong site (I attach a photo of my father and me taken at the time 1955) and it is still standing there ...
Of course the new "camp" I refer to (also had housing barracks - in Menai people actually lived in tents) was situated in MARAYONG.
We have ascertained that Mr Venturi's father and my father would have known each other. It would have been unavoidable as my father lived in Marayong for a couple of years. I spoke with my mother about this today, and she said that she had never met Venturi, but remembered the name as someone from head office.
The church, St Anthony's Italian Chapel, is acknowledged as part of the cultural heritage of Marayong.
Blacktown Council has a brief history and timeline, noting the EPT camp and St Anthony's Italian Chapel
And here is some information about the Catholic migrant ministeries (scroll down to the Italian Ministry)
I do not remember the chap in the middle of the photo with the plate in his hand. However on his left and leaning on the door is Vittorio Monduzzi (then chief executive of EPT). The people on the right of the fellow with the plate are my father (the tallest one looking at the plate), to the right of my father there is Father Enrico Bianconi (a Franciscan friar whom the company employed to help the Italian employees) who was also the Chaplain at Menai. Behind my father one sees Belgiorno-Nettis (founder of Transfield with Salteri). Lastly on the RHS of the photo under the awning among other people, one can see Salteri (of Tenix fame).
Actually in the photo, taken probably in Easter of 1952, you can see the founders of the Australian transmission lines.
26 May 2008
Also, Mr Venturi has sent this wonderful picture depicting something of the 'original' camp and life in Menai, Sydney, 1952. It looks very much like a joyous village or community festival. I remember times when there were parties and celebrations in the camps. However, my recollections of the camps, though I was never in a Sydney camp, were that they were much more makeshift and rougher.
He writes in Italian (I will translate properly later, but I can decipher that the man to the right of the man holding the plate is Mr Venturi's father):
Le allego una foto presa a Menai all inzio del 1952.
Non ricordo la persona al centro con il piatto in mano. Ma alla sua sinistra e appoggiato alla porta e Vittorio Monduzzi. Le persone alla destra del signore con il piatto sono mio padre (il piu alto che guardail piatto) alla destra di mio padre, Padre Enrico Bianconi (frate cappuccino) impiegato dall EPT per aiutare gli Italiani e Cappellano a Menai (non Padre Silvio come ho letto nel suo libro). Naturalmente dietro mio padre lei avra riconosciuto Belgiorno.
Cordiali saluti ...
15 May 2008
11 May 2008
This morning I received some information about an exhibition titled The New Normal. It is concerned with the use of private information as data and subject matter. The publicity material for the exhibition evokes social media as having had a profound effect on privacy: "With the rise of online commerce, many banks and retailers have developed sophisticated methods of tracking and studying the behavior of consumers, while increased use of the Internet has created new platforms for voluntary self-disclosure, from blogs to MySpace."
One of the questions that this project has raised for me concerns privacy and the implications of making seemingly private documents public, even though these private documents represent a working life or public life. I acknowledge, given my studies in history and heritage, that private documents are vital to the study and compilation of history. They give us rich insights into and personal stories about the past otherwise not accessible through the public record.
I find these ideas of privacy and disclosure quite beguiling. I am acutely aware, in my Transmission Lines project, that I need to be mindful of privacy and how much I reveal or disclose. In that process, I am endeavouring to draw attention to the magnitude of the contribution that migrant workers like my father made to, in and across this country.
05 May 2008
A slide show has also been created on Slide.com and added to this blog:
RSS feeds have been added from this blog, Flickr and the Platial map to my Facebook profile. Anyone can do this and there are a number of Facebook RSS widgets. Just go to the feed links on the respective sites ... or copy and paste these URLs:
03 May 2008
"Everything was shipped from Italy, labourers, materials, and prefabricated dwellings. They established a little Italian community with a cook, a priest and even a little church. They occasionally invited people from neighbouring suburbs to attend meetings, theatrical performances and parties, and also to have the chance to speak Italian and enjoy Italian culture, hospitality and heritage." (p 17)
My father often said that when he arrived in Australia, he was taken out to the camp at Blacktown, so I am assuming this is what he was referring to. The camp was not salubrious by anyone's standards and was comprised of barracks style accommodation. You can get an indication of what the camps were like from some of the photos posted to the map (the Port Augusta, SA, photos are probably the most explicit).
The Sydney company Dickson Primer got the agency from SAE to build tranmission towers in Australia. In 1951, SAE via its agent Dickson Primer, registered the company Electric Power Tranmission Pty Ltd so as to carry out the work.
Cresciani describes the circumstances leading to SAE's arrival in Australia:
"In August 1951 a group of 25 SAE men, a priest and two SAE engineers, Franco Belgiorno-Nettis and Carlo Salteri, left for Australia. The team project manager, Vittorio Monduzzi, came some months later with his wife and with Salteri's wife ... Born in Brisighella, in the Province of Ravenna, he left school at 11, like many of his generation, and joined SAE as a supervisor when he was only twenty." (p 4-5)
This project manager, Monduzzi, came from the same town as my father. I enjoy this coincidence.
01 May 2008
On this premise, I'm thinking there may be mistakes in some of the captioning. From the time I started school in 1969 through to 1971, we lived in a couple of different places in Melbourne. When I was in grade three, in 1972, we lived in Geebung, Brisbane, in Queensland. Then in 1973, when I was in grade four, we moved twice - to Wollongong and then Maitland. After that we relocated to Brisbane again and stayed. My father ceased to work with EPT in 1975 whereupon he pursued a different life altogether.
However, on the basis of his photo captions, everything makes sense until we get to Brisbane in 1972. In 1971 and 1973, he worked in Western Australia. It is unclear to me why we were located in Brisbane and why we moved twice in 1973. I'll also have to do some more research about the work my father was doing from 1972 onwards.
1955 - Bari to Foggia, Italy
1956 - Migrated to Australia
1956 - Chullora to Canterbury, NSW
1956 - Helensburg, NSW
1956 - Waterfall to Mt Kiera, NSW
1956/57 - Culkairn (to be verified)
Late 1950s - Wagga Wagga to Hume, NSW
1958 - Sydney to Dora Creek, NSW
1961 - T2, Snowy Mountains, NSW
1962 - Mt Kosciuszko region, NSW
Early 1960s - Cabramurra, NSW
1962 - Tumut, NSW
1963 - Cairns to Kuranda, QLD
1964 - Port Augusta to Whyalla, SA
1965 - Murray 1 Power Station, Kanchoban, NSW
1966 - T3, Tumut/Talbingo Dam, NSW
1967 - Moura to Blackwater, QLD
1967 - Connesvil (to be verified, possibly Collinsville) to Clare, QLD
1967/68 - Templestowe to Kew, VIC
1968 - Tolmie Gorge (to be verified), possibly QLD
1968 - Low Yarra to Brooklyn, VIC
1969 - Dederang to South Morang, VIC
1969 - Myrtleford, NSW
1970/71 - unknown mountain region (to be verified, possibly Snowy Mountains)
1970/71 - Hazelwood to Keilor, VIC
1971 - Swan River, Kwinana to East Perth, WA
1973 - Helena Valley, WA
30 April 2008
I can help but wonder about this doubling of disorientation - in a new language and a new country. Lost in translation and lost in the landscape.
Incidentally, I am also finding Google Maps much easier and preferable to use than Platial and that might cause a rethink of the mapping aspect of the project.
28 April 2008
In my family home there are two quite ordinary artefacts that focus on my father's life. To provide some background: my father was born in Brisighella in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy on 23 or 24 March 1932. No one is certain of his date of birth as family members and documents tell differing stories. Our family has always celebrated it on 24 March. He passed away in June 2001 in Brisbane.
The first artefact is a tattered old photo album with a black cover that documents two phases in my father's life. First there his military service in Italy as a paratrooper in the 1950s, a marvellously rich series of photos of young men in uniform. Second his life as a rigger and linesman building high tension transmission lines. He began working with in this capacity in the early mid 1950s and the first photographs, of the the Bari to Foggia line, were taken in 1955.
The second artefact is a stained and torn map on which my father used drawing pins to mark the places he worked. He also draw lines between the points marking out where the lines ran. No one can remember when he did this but the map has been in the family home for at least 20 years. However, some of the pins are now missing, leaving small punctures in the aged paper.
These documents are uniquely about his life. There's something about these acts of documentation that I have always loved and through this project, I am hoping to reflect on and honour these artefacts as personal and social documents.