Brisbane is now my home and has been for a few years. I love it with a passion and this city means a lot to me for the way it is built, for what it offers its residents and for what it stands for. It surprises me constantly and engages me in so many ways and the latest is the new exhibition at Brisbane City Hall called 100% Brisbane.
Why is this exhibition so different from any other? Well in a sense until now, museums have been considered to be keepers of artefacts and documents often with an emphasis on the past. Brisbane Museum has radically departed from this view and has put on an exhibition where it has a role as a participant in the city.
The current director spent quite sometime abroad looking at the way museums have evolved and entered into a collaboration with a Berlin based theatre company called Rimini Protokoll. They helped create what is on display here today. It is a big exhibition with lots of video material and interactive sections, so do allow yourself plenty of time and if possible arrange a curated visit of the exhibition. It is well worth it.
Entering on the right hand side you are met with the insightful comments of an aboriginal elder and comments from Shannon Ruska and the captivating sing- song poetry of Teila Watson.
Just ahead the story of Brisbane told in "frames" by the wonderful William McInnes, which includes artefacts from older days, pictures of what the city used to be like and footage from seminal moments in the city's history. Don't miss this.
Just outside are the contrasting - settler vs aboriginal accounts of how Brisbane began back in 1824, why it was named Brisbane, how it was started by some 36 convicts. At the same time and on the other side as it were, knowing that this land was inhabited by aboriginals, perhaps as many as 5000 between the river and the area of Logan who had their own systems and community. Despite them being here before the settlers they were dispossessed and many injustices perpetrated upon them as the city stopped being a penal colony and became available for free settlement some time around 1842.
There is a little nook dedicated to the trams of the city and how much they served to extend the city to the urban sprawl we know today. Some interesting and significant snippets of information tell us that when there was a strike in support of the tram workers this was the first General Strike in the whole of Australia.
The floods of 1893, 1974 and 2011 are graphically represented on the walls in height charts so we can see how quickly the flood waters came to overwhelm communities and homes. For me one of the most poignant photographs of the exhibition is this one where all members of the community pitch in to help drive back the mud and destruction brought on by the flood waters.
A record player caked in mud and a football cup that turned up in someone's back yard.
The 100% Brisbane is posted on a wall with each participant representing 1% of the population. The criteria are five, age, gender, suburb, birth and household composition. These people, all with their own stories and backgrounds represent the Brisbane of today and the future. Their stories have been recorded for us all to listen to and there is an area where you can sit down and hear what they have to say. In this same place, you too, can contribute your own stories and answer the questionnaires that the participants had to answer. It's fresh, it's multicultural, it's non judgmental, it's inclusive and fun. This city is about the people who belong to it and this exhibition applauds them. There are lovely additions like capturing the smells associated with the city; bitumen on a hot day, the scent of frangipani flowers in the summer to exploring the city on a board which lights up with information and place names. Be a part of it.