University of Georgia, Sydney Walking Tour May 2014

words edge of trees.jpg
Text and images from Museum of Sydney site: http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/exhibitions/edge-trees

Text and images from Museum of Sydney site: http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/exhibitions/edge-trees

Edge of the Trees is a site-specific piece commissioned for the forecourt of the Museum of Sydney at its opening in 1995. The installation was created by artists Fiona Foley and Janet Laurence. Their award-winning public art installation evokes the cultural and physical history of the site, before and after 1788: a pivotal turning point in our history, when contact and invasion / colonisation took place.
 

The name of the sculpture comes from an essay by historian Rhys Jones, 'Ordering the Landscape' in I & T Donaldson's Seeing the First Australians, Sydney 1985: "…the 'discoverers' struggling through the surf were met on the beaches by other people looking at them from the edge of the trees. Thus the same landscape perceived by the newcomers as alien, hostile, or having no coherent form, was to the indigenous people their home, a familiar place, the inspiration of dreams."

A 'forest' of 29 massive pillars – sandstone, wood and steel – cluster near the museum entrance. Wooden pillars from trees once grown in the area have been recycled from lost industrial buildings of Sydney. The names of 29 Aboriginal clans from around Sydney correspond to the 29 vertical poles. Walking between the pillars you hear a soundscape of Koori voices reciting the names of places in the Sydney region that have today been swallowed up by the metropolis.

Organic materials such as human hair, shell, bone, feathers, ash and honey, are embedded in windows within the elements, evoking prior ways of life. Natural and cultural histories are evoked by the names of botanical species carved or burnt into wooden columns in both Latin and Aboriginal languages, along with the signatures of First Fleeters. Place names are engraved on the sandstone pillars in English and Aboriginal languages.

Sydney Cove, Port Jackson. 1788 By Bradley, William. From the collection of the State Library of New South Wales [a3461012 / Safe 1/14 opp p 84] (Mitchell Library)

Sydney Cove, Port Jackson. 1788 By Bradley, William. From the collection of the State Library of New South Wales [a3461012 / Safe 1/14 opp p 84] (Mitchell Library)

Tank Stream Map The catchment area of the Tank Stream superimposed on a map of current Sydney. (Reproduced from W V Aird, The Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage of Sydney, The Metropolitan Water Sewerage & Drainage Board, Sydney , 1961.)

Tank Stream Map
The catchment area of the Tank Stream superimposed on a map of current Sydney. (Reproduced from W V Aird, The Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage of Sydney, The Metropolitan Water Sewerage & Drainage Board, Sydney , 1961.)

Inside the Tank Stream Today the Tank Steam still flows beneath the city as part of the stormwater system. (Courtesy of Sydney Water Corporation)

Inside the Tank Stream
Today the Tank Steam still flows beneath the city as part of the stormwater system. (Courtesy of Sydney Water Corporation)

The AMP building and Harbour Bridge  1960.  a026384

The AMP building and Harbour Bridge  1960.  a026384

Fowkes, Francis. Sketch & description of the settlement at Sydney Cove Port Jackson in the County of Cumberland taken by a transported convict on the 16th of April, 1788, which was not quite 3 months after Commodore Phillips's landing there.

Fowkes, Francis. Sketch & description of the settlement at Sydney Cove Port Jackson in the County of Cumberland taken by a transported convict on the 16th of April, 1788, which was not quite 3 months after Commodore Phillips's landing there.

Circular Quay railway digging

Circular Quay railway digging

Sydney from the western side of the Cove ca 1803 attributed to G.W. Evans State Library of NSW http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemPopLarger.aspx?itemid=457903

Sydney from the western side of the Cove ca 1803 attributed to G.W. Evans State Library of NSW http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemPopLarger.aspx?itemid=457903

A 1991 comment by cartoonist John Lynch on official reactions to the bust in Sydney's development industry (Australian Society August 1991)

A 1991 comment by cartoonist John Lynch on official reactions to the bust in Sydney's development industry (Australian Society August 1991)