High Rise Low Rise explores Canberra and the Gold Coast


One is the meticulously planned crucible of Australia’s bureaucracy, the other an ocean-licked, sunburnt leisureplex. There might seem little to relate the Gold Coast with Canberra, but if, like curators David Broker and Rebecca Ross, you compare notes, similarities abound.

Both cities materialised abruptly, as modernist projects of the post-war building boom. David Broker explains that each encapsulates a different aspect of the Australian psyche: “The Gold Coast was built around holidays and parties. It’s all about a good time. Canberra was built for politics. It struggles to be a capital city, despite having the national institutions and offering the Australian dream of a property with a garden.”

Both cities are real-estate obsessed, promising a quality of lifestyle determined by proximity to water or green space.

This is echoed architecturally: The Gold Coast sprouted vertically – fashionable towers with sea views. Canberra is horizontal: sweeping boulevards, low buildings and landscaping.

In High Rise Low Rise, Anna Carey, Claudia de Salvo, Anja Loughhead, Monique Montfroy, Millan Pintos-Lopez and Kael Stasce probe the dog-eared yet beloved origin myths of these two cities. Loughhead’s litany of cheap-and-cheerful souvenir tea towels forms a national map of hope, naiveté and Australiana. It makes a perfect platform for regarding the other works.

Anna Carey’s small-scale sculptures log the persistence of “sad and empty” tourist motels, venerating their long-faded glamour (in some modernist time warp). Monique Montfroy’s photographic series Not Only Locals documents the excesses of beachside leisure. Everything is overexposed: blinding sun, fluorescent bathers, everything hanging out. “It’s a
really harsh light,” says Broker. “You can see everybody’s wrinkles. It’s funny, but it’s not.”

High Rise Low Rise balances pride and embarrassment, scrutinising the outmoded utopian proposals made by each city. “The cringe factor comes from representing how Australia sees itself: the glitz, the inferiority complex. That brought us together in the end”.

High Rise Low Rise
Gorman Arts Centre, CCAS
9 December – 11 February

Preview Words by Sheridan Hart