Audio Description #5 – Double Zero

–Audio Transcript–

Title of work: Double Zero
Artist: Mitchel Cumming
Date: 2022
Material description: remnant holes in the gallery wall repaired with a dough made from “00” flour and one litre of water reclaimed from the Rushcutters Bay Stormwater Channel.

Double Zero appears to be nothing more than a bare section of gallery wall: a blank slate awaiting the hanging of some artwork yet to arrive. The smooth plasterboard plane, finished in matt white acrylic paint, is texturally indistinguishable from the three other walls that form the room’s perimeter. Light washes evenly across its surface, no blemish or anomaly drawing the eye’s attention. Embedded invisibly within this plasterboard substrate, however, are a series of pellet-sized pieces of dough, made from a combination of fine baker’s flour and water collected from the Rushcutters Bay Stormwater Channel.

Rushcutters Creek once carried water from the high ridge of Darlinghurst in Sydney, down through thicketed marshlands before emptying out into the harbour below. Thomas West’s flour mill, situated on the western banks of the creek, represented the first colonial intrusion upon this water source: redirecting, impounding and regulating its flows in service of a large overshot waterwheel that drove the mill’s runner stone.

The expansion of the colony, facilitated in part by the mill’s operation, saw residential and industrial activity intensify rapidly in the area, and with this came a further deterioration of the creek. Wastewater from local housing, and chemical runoff from surrounding businesses so polluted the stream that it was eventually converted into an enclosed stormwater channel, paved over by council to form new roads that themselves trickled down towards the bay.

Double Zero reclaims water from this channel, water that would once have powered West’s mill, and sets it to a different kind of work. Combining it with flour to form a rudimentary dough, Mitchel has then patched the small holes left in this wall by the previous exhibitor, preparing the site for its next life. This process of redressing the gallery’s walls (a task normally performed with a quick-drying compound called Spakfilla) is just one of the many invisible labours required to maintain exhibition spaces: a kind of functional work in service not of the productive, but the poetic.

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