Below the streets of towns and cities across the world are the forgotten spaces of past military conflicts—detritus of old wars, or of periods of fear and threat such as the Cold War. Exploring the margins of a city, one can come across overgrown and heavily reinforced doorways leading to some subterranean world of unknown design and use.
Bunker Entrance (South Head) is a copy of a WWII bunker entrance that must have once formed part of Sydney Harbour’s defence network. The work, made out of acrylic paint on canvas stretched over a wooden frame, is a kind of 3D ‘trompe l’oeil’ of the steel and concrete entranceway, complete with all the dirt and rust it has accumulated over time. Presented in a gallery context, it sits like a strange fortified portal to all the abandoned bunkers of history, a sealed-off entry point into battles of different ages and times.
Installed in the exhibition War—A Playground Perspective, the direct physical connection established between the work and the reinforced concrete bunkers of Newington Armory mirrored the historical overlap of military purpose between the site on which the work is based and that in which it was seen. It is quite possible that when both the Armory and the South Head bunker were still in military use, personnel and materials moved backwards and forwards between the two spaces; and showing the work in this exhibition reinforced this connection.
At first glance, Bunker Entrance (South Head) appeared to be part of the fabric of the Armory Gallery, as the shuttered ‘concrete’ disappeared into the floor, suggesting another layer of complexity to add to the original uses of the exhibition area. However, on closer inspection, the flimsy and playful nature of its construction belied the utter seriousness of the original object’s use.
Although this work is a piece of artifice, it prompts the viewer to wonder what might have gone on ‘down there’ during the time of the bunker’s commissioned use.