The late 198os and early 1990s in Adelaide was a period after the 1980s property boom and during ‘the recession we had to have’. I was living alone and working long hours tutoring and cleaning (early morning and evening) in order to keep up the mortgage payments on the cottage. The high interest rates meant that the good times were no longer rolling. Keeping the cottage during the recession meant the end of my photography as I had neither the time nor the money for it.
One aftermath of the 1990s recession in South Australia was that many workers who had become unemployed during the recession were unable to be re-employed in their old, or in a similar, job. Over time many of these people simply gave up any hope of ever finding appropriate employment and slowly slipped into the ranks of the hidden unemployed. Continue reading →
The deregulatory financial reforms of the Hawke/Keating government from 1983 that saw the globalisation of the Australian economy helped to advance the speculative boom that occurred in the late 1980s. In Adelaide, insurance companies, superannuation funds and government financial institutions joined large development companies and individual developers in property investment even before the major share market downturn of 1987, and more intensely thereafter.
The South Australian state government promoted the ASER project in North Terrace, the State Bank Centre in Currie St and the REMM-Myer project at Rundle Mall to encourage economic growth, create employment, increase revenue and modernise the CBD.
The boom was finance driven, and it ended by 1991 primarily because of an oversupply of office space that lowered property values and secondarily because of rising interest rates and foreclosures as speculators defaulted. The financial excesses of the 1980s reached such a scale that the 1990 recession was inevitable. monetary policy responded to the overheating of the economy and the asset price boom of 1988 and 1989. In the event, the cash rate reached 18 per cent in the second half of 1989, the mortgage rate 17 per cent, and many loans to businesses well in excess of 20 per cent.
As the social relationships between people were becoming increasingly mediated by images, and the symbols of consumption such as cars, neon signs, and shops became ever more seductive and signs of social status and personal identity, the process of deindustrialisation continued to spread slowly throughout the manufacturing highways of South Australia. For the blue collar, white working class in Adelaide who were losing their jobs a result, consumer society’s promised land of a better middle class life for all seemed to move further away into the distance.
The process of deindustrialization meant that the realities of the world experienced by ordinary people stood in marked contrast to the glossy spectacle image-text world of commodified experience. If there was a space for a weighing of the actual against the promised, there was yet no popular reaction to the neo-liberal globalisation.
There was, however, a cultural tradition of a poetic and sensual desire to be intensely living in the world, feeling its most intimate reality, through a turning away from the cultural, moral, intellectual, and political values of the prevailing social order to the world of play, creativity within the functional drudgery of contemporary urban life.
One way the boredom and dissatisfactions from living in Adelaide could be relieved was through gestures of rebellion and revolt. Another was through hanging out in the shopping precincts, arcades and going shopping in Rundle Mall. Leisure time, freedom, and choice was increasingly expressed through consumption. Everyday life was becoming a realm of bland consumption.
My experience of drifting (dérive with its flow of acts and encounters) through these spaces of consumption was that the mall or arcade cuts us off from one another by encouraging the individual pursuit of stuff as well as cutting us off from the world. The street in contrast is about connecting people with one another and that is what turns space into place.
There were very few spaces in Adelaide the 1980s that became gathering places. Placemaking was not part of the urban designers at the Adelaide City Council. So the arcade becomes a consumer bubble, a way where people waste time doing little but watching each other. Or being lost in their own thoughts and emotions. Frozen moments in everyday life. Continue reading →
One of the most striking characteristics of Adelaide’s CBD in the 1980s was the empty streets outside of the weekday’s 9-5 working hours. During the weekend the streets were more or less empty, and apart from the tumbleweeds in Rundle Street the city was dead with respect to urban street life. The urban life of this provincial, colonial capital city was desolate and depressing. People worked in the CBD and lived and loved in the suburbs.
The CBD had been emptying out from the 1950s, when families with children moving to new housing in the suburbs. Post-war migrants lived in the inner city areas and young professionals joined the migrants in central Adelaide and North Adelaide in the 1960s and 1970s. The CBD was still all about business, commerce and profit, not inner city living, or the protection of the traditional built character of the city.
This emptiness on the streets was in marked contrast to the flux and flow of the image-texts in a corporate consumer culture or the rapidly changing built environment as a result of the Bannon Government’s strategy of using major building projects to kickstart economic growth in a crane-led recovery from economic recession. Continue reading →
The Australian photographic context or reference point for the street work in the Bowden project is probably the Candid Camera: Australian Photography 1950s-1970s exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2010. This was curated by Julie Robinson, the Art Gallery’s Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs. Candid in this context presumably means the photography is done in such a way that the subjects are not aware they are being photographed at the exact moment the image is being made.
Bowden’s factories and warehouses were still in existence in the 1980s, and the lunch hour between 12 and 1pm saw a fairly active street life as people walked to and from the local corner deli to buy their lunch. Representing this everydayness in terms of cultural value is what commercial imagery would ignore, flatten and dismiss. Cultural value means that the photography has benefit for people in some way, or engages them in some way regardless of whether it’s sellable.
The Bowden street photography was black and white, straight images and traditional analog. It was fairly straight forward in its realist approach and rhetoric to representing a decaying, vanishing Australia. It concern with memories of this inner suburb meant that the project didn’t buy into two central strands of common understanding of documentary in the 1930s or 1940s. This was the “universal language” myth (photography constitutes a language in its own right that can communicate to all the people on the planet), and the transparency of representation myth (a photograph “was what it was” and it had a direct relationship with seeing.) Continue reading →
These are the girls being left behind by the process of deindustrialization that started in the 1970s in South Australia.The process of deindustrialization took place behind the recessions in the mid-1970s, the early 1980s and the early 1990s that destroyed much of Australia’s manufacturing base the oldest inner city-based plants where little new investment had occurred.
The future of south Australia looked to be one of working class job losses, economic stagnation, poor job prospects for the working-class youth, poor educational qualifications, high illiteracy and innumeracy rates, increasing unemployment and poverty, and young people leaving the state for work in Melbourne and Sydney.
In the 1980s deindustrialization in South Australia looked as if it was going to be a protracted and painful experience.There was a sense that these working class girls were going to be left behind and forgotten amidst the economic decay.
Deindustrialization in South Australia looked as if it was going to be a protracted and painful experience. First the white goods industry goes offshore then the automobile industry. There was a sense of a failure to transition away from the decliing manufacturing economy to knowledge industries and the service sector even though the options for South Australia were stark: change or decay. Continue reading →