Bollard City

March 2, 2018 by Carmel Shute
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Bollard City, a solo exhibition by Georgian-born artist, Nina Sanadze, opens on Saturday 17 March at Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West, and explores how bollards have become the new icons of our time. 

“Bollards are a symbol of terrorism and the war on terror alike. Functionally necessary as a form of protection, they are inadvertently a symbol of tragedy and a monument to those who died in terrorist acts. In this sense bollards represent desperation, impending danger, fear, paranoia, loss of freedom and restriction of democracy. They are also symbols of ignorance, primitive brutality and intolerance,” Sanadze said.

“Until a few years ago, most of us, apart from local government workers and traffic engineers, had ever heard of bollards and certainly not as a counter-terrorist device.”

Historically, Sanadze points out, bollards have been used around the world to help control traffic.

“Now, thanks to bollards, our cities resemble forts. At roughly 90cm tall, bollards stand in militaristic lines outside government buildings and near street curbs.”

In her exhibition, Sanadze will place replica bollards used by many countries into the gallery space as powerful reflection of our time.

“I am creating an imitation of various designs in order to resemble a cityscape, a demolition site and a cemetery. Some will be life-sized, others enlarged,” Sanadze said.

“Viewers might feel compelled to navigate through the installation, sometimes finding themselves at ‘dead ends’ or having to squeeze through the narrow passages.”

Nina Sanadze

Through this experience, Sanadze invites viewers to examine ideas about threat, fear and control and consider at what point anti-terrorist measures make us unnecessarily afraid, and erode our civil liberties.

Bollard City explores our deeply seated personal anxieties about the transition from Australia as a safe place to one of uncertainty and how freedom in public spaces can conflict with our desire to be safe. The exhibition also examines how this change is affecting our behaviour in public space. My fear is that bollards will clutter the city until it becomes dysfunctional and threatening,” she said.

Sanadze has a personal interest in forms of social control because as a child she lived through the Soviet era as well its collapse in Georgia.

“Seeing the bollards in Melbourne brings back memories of the five years of war I lived through – firstly when Russia resisted Georgia’s declaration of independence and then the two years of civil war that followed. There were violent clashes on the streets with tanks rolling in front of my windows and lots casualties and destruction. Bollard-like objects were installed as anti-tank measures,” Sanadze said.

“My family was forced to flee and we ended up being refuges in Moscow in 1992. I was very shaken by the experience. When we emigrated to Australia in1996, I became a relaxed Australian. I felt so safe. However, encountering bollards has shocked me out of my complacency and back into art. My exhibition is a direct response to the tragedy in Bourke Street. Bollards are transforming our city into one that is not so livable.”

Sanadze has spent more than 20 years in book design and illustration and participated in many group and solo exhibitions. She lives in East St Kilda and describes herself as “half-Jewish”. Her husband is Jewish and they have two children. Her Jewish grandfather was the only one of his family to survive a Ukrainian pogrom during World War 11.

Sanadze said that the Living Museum of the West was one of Melbourne’s hidden gems.

“The bluestone building with its concrete pipe – and the adjoining bullet factory – have a visceral connection with the theme of the exhibition. It’s an adventure to go there,” she said.

Peter Mares, a writer and researcher with a special interest in refugees and migration, will launch the exhibition at 3pm Saturday 17 March. The exhibition runs to 25 March.

The exhibition is supported by the Living Museum of the West.

Bollard City

Saturday 17 March – Sunday 25 March, 2018; Sat-Sun: 12-5pm, Tuesday, 20 March, 11am-3pm

Opening celebration Saturday 17 March 2018: 3-5pm

Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West Visitor Centre, Pipemakers Park, Maribyrnong


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