Streetscape Valley of Praise
Centuries of footfall pile up in my mind as I quick march to the hairdresser. I’m running late as usual. I look at my feet. Each step, heal first for maximum pace. Slap the toes down and lift again. The other heal connects. Heal. Slap. Heal. Slap. Rhythmic reverberations of an all too familiar beat. Trekking. Wandering. Walking on a footpath steeped in memories and history. Pathways enduring and adjusting over time — likely before ‘centuries’ too, when it was a well travelled track along the valley floor. Long before gravel, bitumen, concrete and bricks.
I glance at the time on my phone (as if it could miraculously slow down due to my haste). In my mind I measure the weight of twenty-years of footsteps and multiple journeys, much like this one. I see them all in the streetscape of memory; the full spectrum of fluorescent colours. Pinks, purples, lime green and orange—imagined traces along Main Street like the long streaks of light in nighttime traffic photography. I can change the colours whenever I like.
Online maps can’t compete with the streetscape. The online map I use is a popular app. with places depicted in flat digital dimensions. They are drawn in white and ghostly grey; insipid lines for future journeys not yet made. The lines are languages interpreted in my mind, guiding me to an unfamiliar place. But there’s another way to read them—as a commemoration of familiar places, journeys past and roads once travelled. I look at the online map of my town; an epitaph for footsteps long gone.
Rounding the corner at the Woollen Mill, I duck my head under the unruly Wattle tree arching over the footpath. I wave to the brewers setting up their ‘open’ sign across the street. From their point of view, the footpath is like watching a tennis match; continual movement back and forth, and in and out of the brewery. That’s a busy streetscape right there, heavy with primary colours: red, yellow, blue.
Memories of walking the streetscape are shared with so many others, but if we were to compare, the memories would never correspond. Sure we share a wave across the street—a momentary connection of airborne energy held between open palms—sometimes there’s a word of greeting too, but as the sound disintegrates it’s only the smiling eyes in our that mind remind us this happened. There’s also the vast memory-pool of the walking bus to primary school with its varying tones and timbres of youth. School bags and school lunches, school sports, school concerts, school love and hate. We walked and talked about it all.
But at 5am this morning, the gentle hum of the street sweeper vehicle made its way into my mind, colourless. It was doing its job. Sweeping away all the footprints and voices of the previous week, all the streetscape connections. My mind replaces them; the waves, footsteps and conversations.
Valley of Praise
Walking and reading the landscape tells the story of the town’s texturology. It’s the layers of decades, of buildings, gardens and earth. Modern and historic movements, renovated homes and streetlights, blackened trunks of trees on the horizon, 19th century historic stone and red brick buildings, vineyards, orchards, regenerating bushland, towering farm and factory sheds, warehouses, livestock, and shop fronts with wide verandas. Most are humble enough in structure but enduring in their gesture upon the land.
The texture of economic effect seeps from the foundations of public spaces. It pinpoints them to their build date and the financial circumstances that made them possible—another page added to the texturology of the town.
Take schools for example, the layer-cakes of everyday-life. The school grounds are a journey through centuries of community effort, world wars, Government funding, and economic change. But as the school bell rings, a hundred young voices and footsteps fill the grounds and surround the buildings, icing the layer-cake with momentary joy—a fleeting sweetness that will eventually melt away again.
My aim with “Streetscape: Valley of Praise” was to create a dreamlike image of reading traces upon the walked streets of Lobethal, South Australia. I chose 1970s colours and patterns because I can only imagine people walking in the town in the 1970s. I wasn’t here then. In my mind I dress the people in brown flared trousers, paisley shirts, pleated skirts and knee-high boots. They are pram pushers, postmen, shoppers, mill workers, bakers, store-keepers, and people late for appointments.
There’s something so friendly and familiar about these colours. Not because that was a better time or place, but because we’ve had longer with their aesthetic influence. Their distance in time paves the way to nostalgia.
I arrive late for my appointment, but the hairdresser doesn’t mind. She knows that I walked. Walking overwrites time and tardiness on the streetscape. Have you noticed that too?
Kendrea Rhodes’ SALA 2022 Exhibition (online) comes to you from an Adelaide Hills kitchen in August. This exhibition focuses on alternative methods of studying place and community through art praxis. Various images are framed and for sale during the SALA 2022 Festival. Digital images are not 100% representative of physical artwork. They are distinct artworks in themselves and can be printed for purchase upon request. If you are in the Adelaide Hills in August, and would like to see the paintings in person, please contact KendreArt here.
- Michel de Certeau. “Walking in the City”, The Practice of Everyday Life, translated by Steven Rendall, University of California Press, 1984, pp 91-110.
- Texturology: de Certeau talks of viewing Manhattan from above when he says, “it is transformed into a texturology in which extremes coincide—extremes of ambition and degradation, brutal oppositions of races and styles, contrasts between yesterday’s building, already transformed into trash cans, and today’s urban irruptions that block out its space” (p. 91).