At Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy, a large, empty plinth stood in the centre of a circular garden bed. The plinth was erected in 1901 and was originally the base for a wooden statue of Queen Victoria which only stood watch over the gardens for a very short while before going missing. The statue was never replaced and the plinth has stood strangely bare in the park for over a century. In 2016, the City of Yarra initiated a temporary public art program for this site.
Positioned within the context of memorial, the plinth and the locker share a particular relationship in their vacantness. With the plinth’s original intention to honour the passing of Queen Victoria, the absence of her statue opens up broader considerations of whom and what we commemorate. The locker is a familiar utilitarian form―symbolic of the many industries and institutions it serves―schools, TAFES, universities and workplaces. The balance of what remains and what is removed is where the tension exists in this newly commissioned work, Middle Row. Rowlands has severed a large section from the core of its structure, it balances like a partially logged tree, and the anticipation of the fall brings greater awareness to the potential of loss. It is here that we consider the notion of memorial; is this locker resting uncomfortably with the potential to collapse, or is it holding resilient?
Re-purposed Steel Lockers, Edinburgh Gardens Empty Plinth Commission, City of Yarra, Fitzroy, 2017-2019
Images courtesy of the artist