Earlier, the architecture of this staircase whispered to me saying ‘Above & Below! Above & Below!’. The stairs of town hall flare outwards from the main building to the street – a limestone, marble, and brass drawbridge between political power, and the concrete Earth. These stairs stretch over a poorly lit lower level that provides entry to the train station below and shelter for homeless people in heavy rain.
The contrasts between the formal extravagance above and the transitional shadows below are both obvious and taken-for-granted. I wonder: Will we sit in this space below the stairs? How might people react to the damp, sour smell, and the dirt of the pebble-filled concrete? Below the stairs is not ‘comfortable’. I feel myself seeking out discomfort – or turning to face the strange (as Bowie would say). I am curious about below.
Who is welcome on these white marble stairs, and who is at home below? These fault-lines follow me as we walk.
We cross the street and enter the opulent antique shopping arcades of the ‘Queen Victoria Building’. In a mash-up of class and privilege, a swarm of people taking a walking tour of Sydney wrap themselves around us. We shape-shift and become tourists. Without irony or any hint of our violent colonial history, the guide notes the immense statue of Queen Victoria that sits above us on a grand plinth. A bronze likeness of her favorite dog sits nearby cunningly disguising a ventilation shaft from the carpark below.