We Are Here

Related to City Art
Installed 10 March 2013
A colourful section of a 15 metre high mural on the side of a building
top down view of a busy gathering of people in a laneway at night with an illuminated gazebo at the centre of the crowd  and large murals painted on the walls of the surrounding buildings
A section of a 15 metre high mural on the side of a building  depicts a boxer set against a black and white pattern

A mural that extended along the façade of Foley Street took its form from the hundreds of parades that have travelled up Oxford Street.

Artist: byrd, Dylan Demarchi, Gui Andrade, Sarah Howell, The Dirt
Curator: Juliet Rosser
This artwork was temporary and is no longer at this location.
“A parade where the street becomes a stage. We Are Here is an inclusive proclamation of present and past. A spectacle inviting you in; you are here and We are Here. The We Are Here mural transforms Foley Street into a time-travelling, rambunctious romp through the complex history of the local area.”

– Juliet Rosser, curator (2013)

Artwork description

The mural We Are Here was 15m high by 75m long and extended along the façade of Foley Street, running parallel to Oxford between Palmer and Crown streets. The work – collaboratively executed by artists Sarah Howell, Dylan Demarchi, byrd, The Dirt and Gui Andrade – revived lost fragments of the area’s history and brought it firmly to the present. It took its form from the hundreds of parades that have travelled up Oxford Street.

Originally a bush track that ran along the ridge between Botany Bay and Sydney Harbour, by World War 1 Oxford Street had morphed into a boulevard that joined the city to the suburbs to its east. The history of this street – how it came to be built, and the people who came to live here – emulates the history of the city. Foley Street edges along the lower reaches of Oxford Street and forms a kind of backstage to the main stage of the boulevard on the ridge. It is in lanes like this the life that supported the main street has played out.

The recurring motif throughout the artwork was hands, signifying the hand of the worker, artist, craftsman, gardener and builder. At the beginning of the parade route the viewer was introduced to Larry Foley, an Australian boxer whose name is given to the street. It included a section acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land. Other sections represented victory celebrations and anti-war protests, federation celebrations in 1901, the Royal Easter Show parade and the Mardi Gras parade. Also included were areas representing thriving late 19th century business, the plague or ‘black death’ in the early 20th century and the diverse and shifting local cultures of the area. The mural finished with another gigantic hand but it was a ‘victory’ sign this time.

Using paint, collage, mixed media, photography and stencil, the varied and contrasting mediums employed by the artists played with the inherent polarities of the Darlinghurst and Oxford Street narrative. The often dark and gruesome history was melded with times of celebration. The work rejoiced in the swinging pendulum of its fortunes, from cultural backwater to creative epicentre, from slum to designer living, a place of protest to a place of celebration, from the 6 o’clock swill to sophisticated cocktail culture, criminal to respectable, addict-ridden to health-driven. This is an area that has seen and been it all.

While the work honoured the past, it also firmly placed a stake in the ground for the present, celebrating the renewed creativity that was re-emerging in and around Oxford Street. The artists and the culture creators were there once again, building it with their hands (or the click of a mouse) and proclaiming: We Are Here.

Streetware public art program

Beginning in 2010, the Streetware program called for artists to bring a new perspective to public places through temporary street art.

Underpinned by a process that addressed the needs of building owners, this program provided opportunities and alternative spaces for local and emerging artists to legally present their work and extend it physically and conceptually.

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