There's no doubt that Perth is undergoing a radical change. It's a time of transition, construction, and re-assessment, with one big question looming large: how do we best create a new vision for Perth? And what may get lost in the process of transformation?
Some of these questions are explored in two complementary exhibitions about to open in Perth and Fremantle.
The City of Perth 2012 Photographic Commissions Exhibition sees photographers Juha Tolonen and Toni Wilkinson explore the changing architecture, interiors, street life and people of Perth, while Empire State, at the new PS Art Space in Fremantle, looks at some of the ramifications of our rush towards a shiny new city. Points of view range from the neutral, documentary or historical - capturing a place at a moment in time before it disappears or changes - to the positive or the openly or implicitly negative.
Empire State curator and artist, Tom Muller senses the feeling amongst many artists in Perth is not especially positive. "I've heard a lot of discussion about how old heritage buildings have come down in order to make way for new, rather soulless buildings," he says. "In that sense, there is a romantic trend among some artists. But there is also a lot of humour in the way we're thinking about what is happening in Perth."
Andrew Botfield's Puzzled to Eternity, for example, draws attention to some of Perth's accidental monuments (giant suburban water towers) or new infrastructure monuments such as the Perth Arena, while Rhiannon Tully's Echo Chambers series moves away from city structures to capture forgotten and abandoned suburban spaces.
Then there's Joel Wynn Rees' Perth in Perth, an image-bank project which explores some of Perth's quirky or overlooked spots.
"He's doing a sort of clone Google Earth website where he's inviting a number of different photographers to shoot places that people maybe don't tend to visit so often and create a kind of 'trail'," Muller explains. "It's like a photographic mapping system, where people can submit impressions of this continuously shifting landscape."
The City of Perth's 2012 Photographic Commissions show also deeply engages with the notion of change and the idea of the morphing built environment.
Juha Tolonen was commissioned to photograph aspects of the city's architecture and interiors, while Toni Wilkinson's portraits capture the people of Perth. "There are subcultures there but also people you would classify as mainstream," curator Isobel Wise says of Wilkinson's series.
"It's very much about how we try to fit in or be different, and how those efforts place us in certain groups, even though we may be trying to avoid categorisation."
In contrast to Wilkinson's portraits, Tolonen's images are devoid of human life, exploring how the city's reality is often very different from the picture-postcard image commonly sold to us.
"Most of our traditional views of the city are quite glorified, as are our views from the buildings we inhabit," Wise says.
"That sweeping vista of river and skyscraper is not the reality that a lot of office workers see. It's the other views - the window, the door, the elevator - that really connect us to everywhere else in the world because every urban city has those views too."
While Wilkinson's portraits will be shown at a large scale, Tolonen's shots will be presented at a smaller, more intimate size. Tolonen's pictures are executed in neutral tones of grey and brown, whereas Wilkinson's are bursting with colour. "That in itself speaks volumes," Wise says. "It's the idea that often, the people of Perth bring life and colour to the city, not necessarily the structures." <div class="endnote">