Lucas Ihlein on Diego Bonetto and Emma Jay


Diego Bonetto and Emma Jay

The work I wanna tell you about is by Diego Bonetto and Emma
Jay. Diego is an artist studying at the Uni of Western Sydney, and
Emma is a dentist. Both are activists who are keenly involved
with the Midnight Star Squatted Social Centre at Homebush.

Out at the Kingswood campus of the Uni of Western Sydney
there is a beautiful decrepid old drive-in cinema. It was operating
from the '60s til 1984, when the manager said that it was the
onset of video rental stores that was forcing him to go outta
business. (Diego found that in a local paper from the time - I love
that such a document can help to pinpoint a transitional moment
in the history of technology)... anyway its now owned by the Uni
and they've used it as artist studios for their masters students,
and a bunch of ex-honours students nearly succeeded in setting
up a gallery in the old projection booth, but the uni shut it down
and now the building is condemned. The whole site is pretty
amazing tho, there are those undulating bitumen crests where
you used to park yer car, and the whole area under the ex-screen
is like a forest of weeds.

It's in this weed kingdom where Diego and Emma located their
project "WeedKiller/PestController" - they created an audio-tour
of the weeds on the site. You get a CD walkman and a glass of
champagne, and follow the trail of numbered stakes hammered
into the ground throughout the scrub. Cheesy instrumental
tracks fade into detailed and quite scientific botanical data about
the particular weed, its origins and distribution, threat to the
ecosystem. It_s hilarious that they've treated lowly weeds with
the same reverence as a botanist would lecture on rare and
exotic succulents. And it_s really interesting, too, to note that
some of the most common plants we see everyday are
classified under the "Noxious Weed Act 1993", and landowners
must "fully and continually supress and destroy all W2 weeds
growing on land for which they are responsible".

The analogy between weeds and squatters is clear to the's just as clear that the classification of weeds is
arbitrary, changeable and political (just as has been the
introduction of foreign species (including European humans)
into Australia). Weeds find a place to live and thrive, often in
otherwise inhospitable terrain...

I have a book of short stories by dissident chinese writers from
the 1950s called "Fragrant Weeds"... Tonight Jane cooked
"Foeniculum Vulgare", Caramelised Fennel with Creamy Polenta
- fennel occurs mostly "as a weed of wastelands, alluvial flats,
river banks, roadsides, railway embankments and irrigation
channels. It is capable of forming dense infestations which
exclude other vegetation". It is delicious.

For the next guided tour contact Diego on 0411293178 or