Dear Testing Grounds /
by Millie Cattlin and
LOCATION: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
In 2014, a little over six months after Testing Grounds opened at 1 City Road, Southbank for the first time, we presented at Open Engagement Conference in New York. The presentation took the form of an open letter, read aloud, and a companion work of instructions for care left behind on site – part didactic plaque, part operational instructions.
In 2022, nine years later and with the imminent move of Testing Grounds to a new site in Queen Victoria Market, we have re-visited the letter as a form of healing and renewal.
Alongside this letter is a sequence of photos from our first site visit to 1 City Road on 23 March 2013 – shade cloth, switch board, clover.
1. Switchboard, pallet, clover. 2013
Dear Testing Grounds,
It's getting dark earlier now and autumn
We are far from you now, having
You surprised us; you came up out of the ground, a hidden thing, forgotten thing in the middle of a city.
Everyone wanted to be with you, to have a part of you, to be a part of you, to make and think and work. So many reports and acquittals and graphs and data, detailing the rich and vibrant use, the critical need for you, the timely nature of your program and progress.
Too valuable, too vital, too useful, too relevant, too there to be lost and now we need to move you, to find a home away from home.
2. Gate, hardstand, gravel. 2013
An idea is formed, just a whisper in the back rooms of public policy, the caretakers have the keys.
the repairers, the maintainers, the ones who fix the windows and close up at night. The artists, the makers, the programers, the curators, the ones who dance in windows and sing all night.
You are to be part of the city’s
A program of live production and experimentation, of up close and personal exchange between art and people and you. On display, art hall, cornuartem.
The caretakers have the keys.
Care is needed, you sit on sacred ground, damaged ground, roiling and riven with bones and bad memories. You can help heal, maybe you can help repair and fix and mend and bring new graces.
3. Wall, conduit, hardstand. 2013
It's March in Melbourne once again, nine years on and you sit, waiting, still and ready to be lifted and packed and painted and cut and cleaned and transported to your new home. Meanwhile the site is returning to the rambling wild, overgrown and full of other life, full of other times.
The market, the Vic Market, the Queen Vic, QVM, so well known, so integral to a kind of Melbourne, to a kind of early morning incantation of fruit and fish and fresh coffee. A place we have been coming to since before we could walk, full of magic and excitement and experiment and ritual.
We are still interested in notions of exposure, to the elements, to ideas, to the observation of others.
4. Fence, shade cloth, grass. 2013
We think it works, we think we are ready.
This project has taught us to take our time.
There is much to be talked about, contested, explained, examined and interpreted. So many voices and opinions, so much at play and so much good work to be done. There will be conversations, discussions, panels and people piling on to the work of discovery. There will be students making mistakes and tripping up and being caught out by enthusiasm and lack of research. There will be dancing and music and art suspended from your beams and store holders wondering what it's all about and finding something interesting and new.
5. City Road, grass, gravel. 2013
I think you would agree that there have been some touch and go moments, doubt and worry creep in, loss of heart and just down right tiredness take their toll.
So we have left you these instructions for care, each one a taste, each one a slice through.
It’s a neat trick to fold your canvas into a few A4 sheets of paper, a topographical origami in defiance of at least the one of the laws of thermodynamics; to condense you, to distill you into
See you soon.
Millie and Joe.