A lovely exhibition extending the series of Rust, Salt and Tar by a collective of SA artists, some of our favourite artists are a part of the collective, a big congratulations to Tony Kearney for curating another masterpiece. Hurry up if you want to see Smoke, these are it's last days. Black Diamond Gallery, Port Adelaide, 2014 Adelaide Fringe Festival. Sat 22 Feb — Sun 9 Mar
Smoke and the Port
This exhibition celebrates the product of combustion, the vaporous gasses and particles, the aromatic, the cure, the pale to greyish blue to thick black, the elemental nature of smoke. The artists have played with the properties of smoke, the smoke of fleeting illusion, of mirrors, the unreal and transitory, of concealment and screening.
The presence of smoke has a long history in the Port. Long before the Europeans first sailed up the river, you would have seen the smoke rising from the numerous fires of the Kaurna people who occupied and made use of this land and water. Among their customs was the practice of fire-stick farming as part of a scrub clearing process for hunting and to encourage grass growth for emu and kangaroo.
The Industrial Revolution ushered in an ‘age of smoke’, skies filled with the by-product of the industrialisation and transportation needs of a growing colony. The tallest smoke stacks were in and around the Port, steam trains provided a regular service between the Port and Adelaide from 1856 and coal powered ships eventually replaced sail. All this would have created an all-pervading atmosphere of dense smoke, ever-present in the daily lives of those living and working here.
Unwanted fire also brought smoke. In 1857, the Great Fire of Port Adelaide destroyed a large area of the built Port. In 1924, fire took hold of the ship The City of Singapore which, at the time, was carrying a highly flammable cargo of cased benzine, petrol and kerosene and other goods. The cargo exploded killing four firefighters and injuring many more. Dock Two was renamed Tragedy Dock.
And then there’s the smoko, the ritual that broke the working day into manageable blocks. The smoko is emblematic of the working class Port, it might have started quietly with the carved albatross bone pipes made by seafarers in their idle time, but it soon became an integral part of the employment conditions of every man and woman who worked these wharves.