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Listening Place (2003 - )

Go to Gallery Page Listening Place
Related EntriesAudio Visual Gallery
Outdoor Installation and Permanent Installation
Location: Alma Park, St Kilda, Victoria, Australia
The following is a reprint of a City of Port Phillip news release (September 3, 2003)


Launch of The Listening Place, a sound installation at Alma Park (west, near the Olive Grove. Melways Ref: 58, D9)

11am-12pm, Thursday September 11

The words of the prophets may well be written on subway walls and tenement halls but in East St Kilda’s Alma Park you can also hear them by sitting on a park seat. Telling stories in different languages, The Listening Place, a sound installation set in a new bluestone seat, will launched by Port Phillip mayor Liz Johnstone at 11am, Thursday September 11.

The Listening Place is the last art work originating in a two-year project called margins, memories & markers that has drawn on the stories told by hundreds of local people.

Cr Johnstone explained that margins, memories & markers has culminated in six public artworks and 28 plaques celebrating collective experiences and memories associated with place throughout the City of Port Phillip.

“The new seat has the word ’listen’ inscribed in six different languages into its bluestone footing. Running on a continuous loop during the day time is a mix of stories in many different languages from current and past users of the park – old and young, dog walkers, nearby residents and newcomers to the area.

“The seat is located near a key landmark; the Olive Grove – a symbol of the multiculturalism and diversity which characterizes East St Kilda. We hope that park users will find the Listening Place just the spot to contemplate the universe, while taking in the different stories.

“The coincidence of voices asks us to listen to each other and reminds us that everyone has a story to tell. When the sound installation falls silent, people are invited to listen to the sounds of the park – not quite the sounds of silence, but the whispers made by leaves rustling and dogs barking in the distance,” she said.

Artist Ros Bandt interviewed and recorded thirty-three people in sixteen locations, including Alma Park, over a nine-month period. The resulting ten hours of material were mixed and mastered into a one-hour sound installation. The sound recording will also be available at St Kilda library.

The stories in the sound installation include those of Ella Elkonina who says, “My husband and I were walking through Alma Park one day in 1997, shortly after we arrived from the Ukraine. We noticed a group of Chinese people doing their morning exercises. They invited us to join them. Afterwards they said ‘See you tomorrow’. From that day on, we exercised together every morning. In all honesty, we never felt better.”

One resident says, “Alma Park is my favourite place – it caters for all sections of the community and the trees are magnificent. I love the private path with its seats to rest on along the way. We should treasure the variety of trees, from Cork Oaks to Stately Pines, Olive Groves and spreading Gums. Also, St Kilda East bird life is varied and plentiful. We are very lucky.”

Others talk about how they find the inspiration to write poetry in the Alma Park Rotunda or about their favourite shops in Carlisle Street and how they like to meet friends on the bench outside Coles.

The project was funded by the City of Port Phillip and VicHealth’s Art and Environment Scheme to explore the idea that urban art can increase social connectedness in a community through shared ownership of public space.

Cr Johnstone said that one of the great challenges of community arts is to involve a broad range of people without compromising the final artwork.

“If everyone ‘paints a tile’, then you risk ending up with a clash of colours and styles. Many people are also reluctant to become involved in community arts because they are intimidated by being asked to ‘do art’.

“Under the artistic direction of Julie Shiels, margins, memories & markers found a way to fully engage and involve the community and also produce works of outstanding quality, through the telling, gathering and selecting of stories, and the distilling of those stories into lasting public monuments.

“The stories that are told and represented in the artworks often flow from individual recollections, but by conceptualising those stories into public monuments, the artists have vested those stories with shared meaning. The artworks mark our memories of place, and so give those places renewed public value. We remember our shared past, not in the form of monuments to famous men and public figures, but in a celebration of the everyday life of the community,” she said.

Cr Johnstone said that margins, memories & markers had got a real synergy going.

“The stories told by the 300-plus people who’ve participated in workshops across the municipality have sparked a new and exciting focus on the development of shared public space. Newer residents and old timers have been rubbing shoulders with interesting results. A different, hybrid society is starting to emerge and it will be reflected, we hope, through the placement of permanent public art in neighbourhoods across the municipality.

“The artworks are uniformly outstanding and have been enthusiastically embraced by residents and visitors alike. They add new layers of meaning to the landscape,” she said.

The project has been coordinated by Ilka Tampke. Local artist, Julie Shiels, was the creative director and writer on the project and also worked on two of the individual artworks.

The artworks and stories collected as part of margins, memories and markers can be viewed on the council website: http://www.portphillip.vic.gov.au/margins_memories_markers.html

A map of the artworks and plaques is also available.

A range of professional photos of the Listening Place and other artworks can be emailed on request.

Enquiries: After hours
Carmel Shute Liz Johnstone
Media Officer Mayor
Tel: 9209 6163 Fax: 9525 4640 Tel: 9531 7358
Mobile: 0412 569 356 Mobile: 0412 135 350
Council webpage: www.portphillip.vic.gov.au

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Prepared by: Iain Mott
Created: 29 August 2003
Modified: 10 September 2003

Published by The University of Melbourne
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: i.mott@unimelb.edu.au
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 18 January 2007

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