My niece Matisse turned ten on the 20 of April. As my sister said, â€œIt is easy to remember her birthday as it is, Hitlerâ€™s birthday.â€? Well that maybe true but I do not like putting Hitler and my niece in the same framework. I prefer to associate her with the painter Henri Matisse, much more lyrical and decorative and much less fanatical, racist and murderous.
My sense of time is markedly different to my niece Matisse unlike me she has a sense of growth and hope. Whereas, I live within formulaic relativity, I am much closer than Matisse to the laws of time as proposed by Einstein, upon which he formulated a hypothesis that time is not experienced by all equally.
That in fact, time itself is understood and dependent upon your position in space and your subsequent movement within and without gravity over distance. Notably, I have been feeling very aware that I have been shaped by my relationship to the laws of gravity and time. I have been sedentary and inert for months now.
Which in itself is a very simple example of this difference in experience the difference in understanding life and time. My life lies clearly, as clearly as memory and experience can be, when I compare my years to that of young Matisse. Experientially through all my limbs, my fitness, my weight, agility and capacity of sight these senses allow a clear comparison of my experience of time. 2
Before me and within me a prospectus of my body brings my life in to sharp relief.
On one hand she’s growing up and investing in the stock market of life while I’m bearish and looking to the dividends of my investments. While my niece is getting taller, blooming and investing in Start Ups, I’m counting my stocks and going grey.
The process of growing and changing has led me to reflect upon my own childhood. As a child of ten I had a very different life to the one my niece lives. Firstly, from the age of eight I grew up in the inner suburb of Armadale in Melbourne and she has always lived on the Peninsula basically in Frankston about 40 km’s away from 3
Melbourne proper. We had access to galleries and restaurants to differing cultures and businesses.
Importantly, when I was a child the world was a very different place: banks and shops closed for the weekend. You learnt to ride a bike on the streets and you didnâ€™t wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Nobody skateboarded there were no skate parks, no dvdâ€™s, wiiâ€™s, computers, eftpos machines, mobile phones, or kindles.
No one had to pay for parking spaces, there were no cable television stations, content providers, no paedophiles as such, no student fees and unions were belligerent and on strike all the time. 4
The idea of terrorism was contained to Bader Meinhoff and the Red Brigade.
Ours was a world without leaf blowers and Harry Potter. I grew up in a quieter world in a place where children played on the street together and public transport though it was never on time was represented with a friendly face who assisted you as there conductors and station masters who guided you, unlike now, where public transport is a faceless automated voice, â€œa public private partnershipâ€?, a machine represented in yellow demarcation tiles that stave off litigation.
Where once public transport was discrete and solid even at times languid it was not adorned with colourful digital printouts of efficiency stats, backed up with warnings of punitive action. The carrot was lost and someone found a large stick in the shape of warnings and a pseudo police force for fair evasion
During my childhood people were not branded as consumers or as customers. Children were children and people well they were still people and neighbours yet the move was on a slow tide of distillation was occurring turning humans to a singular form called consumers.
Consciousness of the narratives of Existentialism and Deconstruction lived in the purview of the French and were not the basis of the production of every piece of Art. Political parties had not yet so successfully positioned themselves as a brand for marketing in to the media cycle of sound bytes.
A citizen was a member of a community and generally a company and worked with loyalty until they retired without a Superannuation fund. Call centres did not exist. Newstart was called social welfare and the Dole. Athletes were amateur rather than sponsored corporate shields, entities emblazoned with business signage, identifying their hard work and dedication to just a product.
In the landscape there were less machines and less gadgets, no surround sound systems existed except for the privileged few, there where no data banks and advertising was not ubiquitous wallpaper. Life itself was filled with less noise. Importantly children had gardens and space to roam and play as credit and negative gearing was not de rigueur.
When I visit my niece in Frankston I notice that some sense of my childhood remains in tact, the residential streets are quiet with large gardens, big trees, low fences and blocks of land that have not be filled with the divisions and the ideals of developers and the power of negative gearing. I enjoy the my time there as it brings me back to a different Australia to different concept of space and 8
recalls for me some of the things that were good and simple that we have now lost. Thankfully, I am pleased that I am old enough to have shared in them.