Written text, car tyre, four Holden skateboards, green garden lamp, red lighting gels, Woodstock Bourbon & Colas 440ml
Trocadero Art Space, Footscray
19 August – 5 September, 2009
Featuring: Paul Batt, Nate Gamble, Marcello Guardigli a.k.a. Nello, Rohan Hutchinson, Anton Jeandet, Silvia Jeandet
Brendan Lee, Andy Murphy, Daniele Pezzi, Rol & Blair Trethowan.
Curated by Sally Browne & Kerstin Cassar
Going to The Big Smoke was a pain in the arse, yet for four mates from Ballarat it was worth swapping world peace for the chance to see their team kick the opposition back to the hoi pollois. The Western Bulldogs were in for a “winner” of a season, which was needed in order to ease the pain inflicted upon them the year before (who'd of thought the umpire would mistake goals for points).
Darren, Dean, Shane and Brett had all packed into the communal VN Commodore and decided to make that extra run through the Thirsty Camel. The car was technically Dean's although ‘technically’ it was still in his father’s name after buying it spanky new in 1991 and passing it down to his son (without informing VicRoads) when he turned 18. Now aged 32, Dean treated the car as a makeshift spare room in which to house his mates, smoke in and occasionally drive to work - work, being an act he only performed ‘occasionally’.
It was at the bottle shop where the boys were faced with a bit of a dilemma. Darren’s Esky could only fit twelve 440ml Woodstock bourbon and colas. Brett had already thrown the poorly wrapped sandwiches (scrunched up like wontons) out of the window, yet they were still short on the space to fit a slab. Shane, who was clearly the brains of the group, had a wave of mental urination. If they downed one at the Bottle shop and held one in each hand then the rest would fit. The problem solved, even though Dean had to drive with a tinnie between his legs (causing a bit of chilly mischief on his sackticles).
Dean spent most of the trip checking himself out in the rear vision mirror – under the impression that he was as handsome as Jason Akermanis without the stupid name. He’d somehow managed to escape the head-shaving fad of the late nineties and allowed his hair to grow long and straight. At first he thought it was cool and that by letting the ladies stroke it, they would move on to stroke him elsewhere. Unfortunately he wasn’t one to wash regularly enough and soon his long brown locks had the consistency of a fish ‘n chip shop splashback. After a big night out at a few of the local pubs, the other guys pointed out that he was starting to recede and the only thing to do was shave it all off. Dean - being Dean - decided it was best to only shave the front off creating the longest mullet anyone had the misfortune to see. The other three weren’t much chop with the ladies either. Darren was never without his Harley Davidson beanie that he bought from a servo the day his head got cold. From that day on it seemed that his head was always cold. Shane (the brain) wore a run-of-the-mill blue and black duffel coat and Brett’s trademark was a majestic ponytail protruding from a brown suede Bundy cap, the type you get when there’s some sort of promo going. All four of them wore whatever blue jeans were priced below ten dollars from Best & Less and tapered over their plain black runners.
As expected, the drive was about as eventful as a free Michael Bublé concert and the boys were putting down the drinks faster than the kilometres could tick over. In order to pace themselves - and not run out before Bacchus Marsh - Shane once again turned on his brain and made the proposition of only drinking when smoking. This would have slowed down the pace had they been sippers of fine wines and not guzzlers of industrial post mix. It wasn’t long before the ghost of every lung cancer victim had converged into the cabin forming a black envelope of emphysema. Thankfully, once over the Pentland Hills, TripleMMM came into reception range and it was time to sing along to their favourite tracks. Under the Bridge by the Chilli Peppers and Limp Bizkit’s I did it for the Nookie was all they needed to fire up the soul and send them raucously to the happy land of Tipsy for the descent into - the not so clear - view of Melbourne.
The emergence of the Melbourne skyline would make most people overcome with awe, yet these boys couldn’t give a rat’s crack. Even if they were to take in the ambience it would have been shattered by Brett’s upwards inflection of ‘quiet down’ sharply followed by a ‘shuttup I wanna hear this!’ A promo offer was being aired whereby if you test-drive one of the latest Holden HSVs you’d score a free gift. The mass-produced Austereo radio announcer made it out to be better than the car itself. Now this motley crew weren’t ones to miss out on handout especially when it involved Holdens and bugger all effort. The decision didn’t even have to be put to a vote; they were stopping off at the only Holden showroom they knew, conveniently neighbouring the Whitten Oval. A pairing made in heaven.
Deano knew what it was they’d get. ‘Guaranteed to be a golden Holden key chain’. Darren counteracted Deano’s intuition with a refined tone of elocution. ‘Nah mate, beanie for sure! If it is it’s mine yez know that, just tellin’ ya before ya get any ideas if thez just one, ya know!’ The Brain had to jump in by upping the stakes a little with a smart remark about it normally being a t-shirt and they only make them in his size - XXL. Never to be outdone Brett was after an embossed HSV jacket. ‘Sheilas love that shit’, he added as if they were included in the gift.
An hour later they arrived at the showroom, “inebriatedly” oblivious to the indignity they’d brought in with them. Not only was the car they’d arrived in a stinking turd on the good name of Holden, it served, as the antithesis to what a car should be. The VN Commodore amplified a momentary lapse in automotive design and logic. The communal car would have been best parked at the footy oval – at least it wouldn’t have looked out of place when (in a puff of smoke) twenty-four crushed cans of Woodstock piled out with the inhabitants. The mad rush to the dealer was straight out of a George A Romero zombie flick. Half stagger, half gallop all four of them wanted to be first to score what they believed to be their rightful prize. Upon reaching the HSV Clubsport R8 Tourer (which was as red and sexy as Rhonda Burchmore) they entered a stationary orbit around the deity, seemingly prevented from touching it by a psychological force shield. The ‘Grand Protector’ of the gods noticed the four men of style lurking around the cars (which he called the dead weights around his neck due to their ludicrous price amidst a the GFC) and automatically went into safeguard mode. Before leaving his office he ensured the cameras had a good fix on their positions and his Blackberry was ready to call in the police should they try and pull any funny stuff. The “Grand Protector’ took his time in coming over, always keeping a trained eye on them and noting their every move.
Brett was first to penetrate the barrier by kicking the nearest tyre, seeing if he could accurately judge the PSI through a steel-capped work boot. ‘Seems a bit flat’ he reckoned. Dean joined in and gave the driver’s side a kicking. ‘This one too, theez treads are only good for bush bashing!’ Amongst all this Darren had decided to take the opportunity to patent the Facial Rorschach On Glass (FROG). He pressed his lips on the glass and blew, leaving his ugly mug on each of the windows–including the wee little ones at the rear of the passenger sides. Shane had a curious look in his lazy eyes suggesting that he wasn’t convinced it was a real car and needed a gawk under the bonnet. Clumsily he groped at what would seem to be the car’s nose, hunting for that hidden latch. The sight of this was too much for the Grand Protector. The sly shimmy he entertained was upped in pace to a canter hoping to prevent the group from pressing and kicking the car into an indecipherable shape.
‘Good afternoon gents,’ the tall mid twenty something Protector announced. He was snappily dressed in a well-suited combination that was selected based on the amount of reflective sheen it could emit. At the sound of an external influence, the four gormless forms shape shifted back to their default modes and original goal. ‘We’re wantin’ to take it for a spin, ya know. Like on the ads the radio said!’ Whoever put Brett in charge needed their head read. The Grand Protector wasn’t stupid or naive. He had no intention of putting the most expensive car in his range under the bums of four men who had the combined IQ of a can of dog food. ‘I’d love to guys, but all the test models are out and I’m under pressure from the manager (referring to himself) to keep this one (the only one) out on display. The blokes weren’t happy. In autonomous unity, all four of them began to kick their nearest wheel as if proving the point that this one wasn’t too good to be kept on display. With their heads down and arms by their sides, each guy progressively increased in beat the booting of the tyres gradually forming an audible rhythm.
‘How about those free gifts of offer?’ Shane coyly enquired using his skill of ‘getting that little bit extra’ out of someone. This was exactly what the Protector needed - a way to quickly and efficiently get them and their humiliating vehicle away from the premises - and protect his valuable asset. Being an expeditious thinker and generally resourceful chap (A Cert IV in Business Management from Victoria University goes a long way) he arranged to bring the gifts to them under one condition – they waited in their car.
The Grand Protector did return a short time later with a small flatbed trolley lugging a box the size a 32-inch plasma screen. Their eyes lit up like roos in a shoot, Shane even rubbed his hands together kinaesthetically. The box was carefully placed on the edge of the gutter and the Grand Protector (who was now known as the Bearer of Gifts) went back to his office to listen to the latest World Cup Soccer game streamed over the internet.
Dean, being the designated driver was to be the self-appointed delegate of the surprise package. Using his car keys, the packing tape was spliced open. The other three all leaned in trying to be first to spot what they’d been imagining all the way there as Dean went in for the lucky dip. What came out threw them into utter confusion. Emerging out of the box appeared the wooden part of a skateboard. ‘That’s yours Brett,’ exclaimed Dean mockingly. Another dig into the box produced another one. ‘Here you go Darren, can’t let your boyfriend have one and you miss out mate!’ Shane - knowing that he was up next wasn’t going to have a bar of this - grabbed the box and tipped out the contents into the space between the gutter and the car. Wheels, bolts and boards were all that the box contained. ‘What use is this shit!’ He cried out, kicking the empty box into oncoming traffic. ‘C’mon kids, back in the car.’
It was Brett who got the cordless out of the boot and put the boards together as they headed off towards Etihad Stadium. The next morning, passing motorists on their way to the Vic Markets, noticed a number of cars abandoned on the grass alongside Footscray Road. Suggestions were that there was a drink-driving blitz by the police or the match attracted a higher number of drivers than usual who drove on the smell of an oily rag. What was hard to explain were the three Holden skateboards spotted within a stone’s throw of the road and the one on the roof of a sun bleached VN Commodore. Looking at the ring of Woodstock bourbon and cola cans surrounding the car, one could only wonder.
Brendan Lee July 2009