The back door to the Albert Street West Space opened onto a derelict yard.
A neglected ‘text’ of serial occupation, it possessed the same archaeological potential as any classic bit of inner suburban waste-ground. Neatly framed by the slack strands of the old wire gate and fence, it defined the borders of the property from the ordinary inner suburban streets of the neighbourhood.
Though not without its singular qualities, standing tall and stark on the block, like an elaborate cairn, or a last snaggle–tooth in the gum; the romance of the old building had nothing to do with the rigidity of its faded early twentieth-century architectural contours. The romance lay in an internal continuum of ‘utter transformations’, each conjured through the shaping insights of artists. Like orbiting planets appearing and passing, bearing their distinct microclimates, each transformation pointed towards further possibilities beyond the frame of the Space.
It was here, at Albert street, in 1998, that my first West Space project, Transcriptions, yielded up a startling olfactory experience, (a vivid and elusive element rarely encountered in this sort of circumstance), and not one I’d ever contemplated exploiting. So it came as a shock encounter as I opened the front door the morning after a hurried completion of the installation. If a perfume can assume a visceral quality, here it was! Overnight the sweet, dry fragrance from near to a thousand Chinese ceremonial joss sticks had filled the air.
The West Space publication Formation and Form reproduces a detail from Transcriptions. Here you see a section of the installation with its continuous four-wall grid. The joss stick holders were ‘fabricated’ by cutting off the bottom ends of ice-cream cones; so you can factor in a ‘biscuit-y’, vanilla backnote to the dominant fragrance of sandalwood.