Cockatoo Island is the home to over one hundred and fifty years of colonial Australian history. It was once a natural haven of towering red gum trees and sulphur-crested cockatoos, whilst its unadulterated waters were fished by the original and spiritual inhabitants of the continent – the Aborigines. After its idyllic beginnings, a prison was established on the island by the Governor of New South Wales in 1839, to accomodate a surplus of convicts being removed from Norfolk Island. The prisoners were put to work building their new abodes- as well as prison barracks, a military guardhouse, official residencies and a shipyard, which would eventually become the biggest in Australia and go on to build much of the Royal Navy’s fleet for both World Wars. The island continued to operate as a shipyard and dock, right up until 1992, when much of the machinery was sold off and some of the island’s structures were destroyed.
The island lay abandoned and dormant. A decaying mass of broken bricks and rusting metal, set within the picturesque surrounds of Sydney’s sparkling harbour. It wasn’t until the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust (SHFT) was established in 2001, that the island started to receive a facelift and began moving towards its current incarnation, as the home to one of the most impressive and varied collections of street art, in the world.
The validation of this this bold, but highly justifiable statement, has been made possible through the hard work of both the SHFT and aMBUSH gallery, who have pioneered The Outpost Project – a massive and directed celebration of all things that pertain to street art and its culture. Including Paste Modernism, the venture has involved the curation and collection of the works of over three hundred of the world’s and Australia’s highest profile and most talented urban, visual artists – a first on this scale for the Southern Hemisphere.
The once dilapidated surrounds of the island have been given a new lease of life, with the introduction of a tent city, pop up bars, DJs, a skate competition, huge installations, live art shows, aerosol murals, stencilling, paste-ups, sculptures and billboards. The more adventurous and curious the patron, the greater their visual rewards- as various pieces and works pop up around hidden corners, down deep subterranean tunnels and within unexpected industrial crevices.
The Outpost Project is presenting street art in an accessible fashion, whilst creating exposure and catalysing much needed dialogues on a subject that holds negative connotations to many. Forums and interactive public talks by authorities on the movement are helping to introduce interested visitors to the contemporary ideals of street art culture and its passionate practitioners. In parallel to these enlightening efforts, The Outpost Project will be working with youth, implementing an ‘innovative education program’, that allows students to engage with their artistic role models during workshops that teach them about the mediums, approaches and issues of street art in the twenty first century.
The following images are but a slice of what Outpost has to offer, and were shot recently over the opening weekend. Over the five weeks of its duration, the island has a revolving door policy to a number of the worlds most prolific and developed artists and their collectives. It is essentially one giant, ever evolving, amazing, collaborative piece of artwork for the public to enjoy, for free. Hopefully not a once in a lifetime opportunity, but an opportunity none the less. For all those with an interest in the visual arts and within reach of Sydney for the next month, the Outpost Project is quite literally, obligatory viewing.
Images | Words: James Watkins
This bird was trying to kill me.
Kid Zoom, designed an amazing replica of his child hood home. Inside the house was a ten minute, highly cinematic and beautifully shot, slow motion video projection – showing the artist destroying the cars and spray painting them with fire, literally.
Film still images from Kid-Zoom.com
detail* - Anthony Lister.
detail* - Anthony Lister.
detail* - Shida.