Distant Things Appear Suddenly Near is an immersive and experimental temporary public artwork, located at University Square, Carlton.
Commissioned by the City of Melbourne, Irish artist Sean Lynch’s, Distant Things Appear Suddenly Near combines architectural reconstruction, elements from the city’s history of public art, and a variety of found objects referencing urban Melbourne.
The entwined arrangement of these elements, amid ongoing construction work and landscape development for the new Parkville Station, points to a balletic ritual of the cityscape, placing the City of Melbourne and University Square as both subject and witness to its own existence and ongoing urban renewal. Lynch notes, “the purpose of Distant Things Appear Suddenly Near is not found in an overarching singular vision, rather it is located in the friction and fractured minutiae of city life, as a conglomeration and meeting of localised attitudes, overtures and ideas over recent time.”
About the artwork
A scale replica of the Corkman Hotel, a well-known meeting place once located at the southeastern corner of University Square is presented as a key focal point of the artwork. The original structure was illegally demolished in 2016, and prominently reported in the Australian media, with discussion about gentrification and city heritage policy. The recreation of the bar’s facade can be seen from various viewpoints converging at the northern part of University Square. The structure appears partially rebuilt, constructed of timber sheeting typical of the building site and hoardings nearby; a ghostly presence or hastily-built remembrance.
As part of the continuing development of University Square, old elm trees were felled in 2017. Seven of these tree trunks are now re-introduced into their former location used in various spaces within and around the site of Lynch’s installation. They join a collection of various unused, non-functional lampposts and bollards, all found during a process of searching, foraging and scavenging in the City of Melbourne’s storage depots.
In addition, Distant Things Appear Suddenly Near prominently features elements of Adelaide-based artist Hossein Valamanesh’s 1997 public artwork Faultline. Originally sited on Southbank Promenade, much of the installation was removed in the early 2000s and placed in storage. Its reappearance suggests public art as ‘acupuncture’ for the cityscape, a roving form that finds particular moments in the urban infrastructure to intervene, an approach especially poignant in post-Covid urbanity. A bronze figure, a boat and pier may initially seem adrift, yet subtly refer to a journey made to a new site, and to the Aboriginal history of the area as a tributary of the Yarra River.
Lynch says, “In these juxtapositions and arrangements, Distant Things Appear Suddenly Near places an emphasis on objects and understandings of spaces that have been marginalised in the continued growth of the contemporary city; now returning to the public arena to speak again and contribute to the nature of the places we inhabit.”
Signage and a custom website by Melbourne designer Stephen Banham further express the project. Visitors to the site can access the website via QR code. A public program, developed by the artist and the City of Melbourne, will also further discuss the processes and ideas behind the artwork throughout 2022.