Tag Archives: Perth

A friendly face in a pile of rubbish

A child noticed this during a visit to Wolf Lane in the city to look at street art murals:

A section of a discarded box looks like a smiling face

a smiling face in a pile of rubbish



I must look, my fusiform gyrus tells me so

Street art by Beastman and Vans the Omega

a section of a wall mural by Vans the Omega and Beastman in Perth

We had the pleasure of watching street art being created for the Public street art festival in Perth, Western Australia by Form last weekend. The smell of spraycan paint wasn’t so great but it was a feast for the eyes and the ears, with a boom-box blasting away in the carpark on Murray Street. While we weren’t there in time to see the piece of art partly shown in the photo below, which is I believe the creation of the Sydney artist Beastman and Adelaide-based artist Vans the Omega, I found it hard to take my eyes away from the mural. I’m a sucker for colour, I just can’t get enough of it, and nothing commands attention like saturated colours outlined in black. I suspect that the pleasure that I get from colour could be explained by the blessings of normal colour vision in the eye (cone cells in the eye normal and working) and a well-developed and well-connected fusiform gyrus, which is the area of the brain that processes faces and numbers and letters and colours and other wonderful visual experiences. This artwork certainly gave my fusiform gyrus a few things to think about, because in addition to colour perception it triggered a bit of visual recognition, because I am sure I’ve seen an image quite similar to the section photographed in some other artwork, perhaps something from the Fin de siècle? In my time I’ve looked at a lot of Symbolist and decadent art and the other art movements from the late 1800s. Of course, the other brain phenomenon triggered by this art is pareidolia, and I can see that this is an aspect of visual perception that Beastman loves to play around with, eyes and hidden faces and symmetrical designs being recurring themes in his work. On top of that my brain is also prompted to some recognition of facial expressions, because that nearly-hidden face is a grumpy one, if I’ve read it right. There’s a lot to just looking, when the art is designed to appeal to human psychology.

Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe Beach, memories and the method of loci go together so naturally

Even though I no longer live near Cottesloe, I make a point of visiting Sculpture by the Sea every year, with at least one of our kids in tow. We love it, and we love swimming at Cott Main Beach (not too deep though, we aren’t that daring). In the last few years I’ve visited with the child of ours who has as strong an interest in the sculptures as I do, so I’ve been able to take my time to really appreciate the pieces, and in doing this to memorize the sculptures seen, in context in their locations. This means that as I tour through the various highly memorable locations along the foreshore of one of Perth’s oldest beaches, I get to visually experience things that are there, and also things that once were there at that exact location. The organizers of the exhibition unavoidably re-use many specific locations for situating sculptures from year to year, so when I look at a sculpture I also often see in my mind’s eye a sculpture that was at that spot last year, or maybe in a year before that. This is an example of the unconscious or unintentional employment of the method of loci memory technique. I have written other posts at his blog about similar experiences of mine and our children in which we have memorized stuff with this or a similar method by accident, and I have even given a name to this phenomenon; involuntary method of loci memorization or IMLM for short.

Standing and looking at many locations along the Cottesloe Main Beach foreshore also evokes memories of family and personal visits to the beach in past years, in addition to the over-laying of more recent memories of the annual sculpture exhibition which has been operating in Cottesloe since 2005. Memories evoked include the time we ate fish and chips there when we were still unmarried, the day I unexpectedly met an elderly aunt (she’s long-dead now), then paddling with her and being shocked by finding a scallop that was unexpectedly alive, memories of many visits with my mother, a sibling and a grandmother which are sometimes also evoked by listening to a specific piece of music from the 1980s, and memories of swimming with my sibling at night in the cold fresh-water pool that was once situated near the groyne, the water tasting strangely sweet following the taste of salt water from swimming in the sea. I could point out the specific locations where I saw the dead whale and also where I touched the rough skin of a large dead shark that someone had displayed like a trophy at the shoreline, both events witnessed when I was a child. There probably isn’t a public place in Perth that evokes as many memories for me as Cottesloe Beach. If there is a neuron or a location within my synaesthete brain “for” Cottesloe Beach, it is surely thickly surrounded by many connections.

The 10th annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Cottesloe will be open from March 7th to March 24th 2014. I can’t wait.  http://www.sculpturebythesea.com/exhibitions/cottesloe.aspx

Perth missing persons – can you help?

Perth WA Crime Reports on Facebook quite often features photos of people missing from WA locations. Can you help? Have you seen any of these people?


Are those cameras just for decoration?

After the many incidents that I’ve seen first-hand or know about second-hand and the lack of an effective response by those whose job it is supposed to be to safeguard security in public places, large shopping centres, workplaces and on public transport, I think those shiny domes that we now see everywhere whenever we look up are mostly there as a deterrent to people with evil designs, to give the public a false sense of security and to provide recorded forensic evidence for use by police after some major crime had happened. In my experience, it is naive to expect that CCTV recordings will be useful, available or accessible in investigating a theft or minor crime against a member of the public, and I also think it naive to expect that any particular CCTV is being capably monitored by anyone, let alone a person with certified face or visual recognition ability such as a super-recognizer. In my experience, even though many workplaces can be assumed to have at least cameras installed for security, it is naive to expect that they will be monitored or recordings checked to guard the safety of employees. Members of the public, shoppers, passengers, employees and victims of crime or workplace bullying don’t own or control those cameras and as far as I know have no legal right to access any recordings, even if those are recordings involving themselves. They aren’t my cameras and they aren’t your cameras. Don’t believe the hype.

Another thing worth mentioning – those “gated” private communities for retirees and the elderly – if there is no employed security guard or security contractor or other person appointed with an explicit responsibility for security, or there is one and she or he is on holiday, or on a RDO, or is sick and has no replacement, or is not rostered on shift, or is busy doing other duties or is patrolling another site, what do you think is likely to happen should there be a threat to security? A theoretical security officer can’t intervene in an actual crime.

Pieces of Perth’s past lodged in my brain

I’ve noticed a few interesting things about the way that visual memory of scenes or landscapes is naturally and involuntarily connected with other types of thinking in some interesting ways in my mind, which seem to be like or related to synaesthesia. Perhaps the oddest and least “normal” of these is a type of synaesthesia that I experience in which hand movements while doing various specific chores trigger permanently but idiosyncratically linked visual memories of scenes. An example would be involuntarily seeing in my mind’s eye for a second or two a scene of the front of the family doctor’s suburban surgery which my family visited in the 1970s, with its glossy pea-green painted decorative woodwork and moist garden, when I would carefully slide in a decorative comb to keep my hair in place. I’ve also noticed that some people, including some of my other synaesthete relatives and myself, experience a visual/memory phenomenon that appears to be a naturally and spontaneously occurring version of the memory technique that is known as the method of loci. We have noticed that when we revisit and view a specific outdoor place where we learned new information in the past, we might find that the exact thought that we had been learning at that exact spot in the past is re-activated our minds automatically. The information previously learned is generally of a conceptual nature, the result of listening to talk radio or reading a book, but sometimes memories of specific pop songs heard in the past are evoked. An example would be remembering the concept of people being killed in the Black Saturday bushfires evoked by watching the scenery while being driven past the exact spot on Flinders Street in Yokine where one sat in a stationary vehicle stopped at traffic lights as one listened in 2009 to morning news on the car radio giving the first full confirmation of the seriousness of the disaster.

Another synaesthesia-like linking of visual memories with another type of thought would be the involuntary illustration of thinking about some specific concepts with scenes of visual memories that are sometimes semantically related, sometimes temporally or randomly linked, and often very dated. I might see a scene of trees on the Rockingham foreshore from decades ago when thinking about the concept of the most popular hits of the latter part of the career of the Beatles. Maybe the “rock” in Rockingham or the British migrants living there are the reason for the linking of these things. As an illustration for thinking of the concept of a nightclub I might see in my mind’s eye the dark and sparse interior of a bar (or was it a nightclub?) which I think was on the ground floor level among St George’s Terrace skyscrapers in the 1970s. Was it called “The Foxy Lady”? No joke, I think it was. It was the 1970s. It was the era of no taste and even less subtlety. Yes, I think there indeed was once a bar on the terrace called The Foxy Lady. How do I know what the inside of it looked like?

Another interesting sculpture at Piney Lakes Sensory Playground

Can letters of the alphabet be people? This lower-case letter E has ears, so I guess it must be true! This is a photo of another sculpture at Piney Lakes which could be interpreted as an exploration of the experience of ordinal linguistic personification synaesthesia. I’d like to make it clear that these sculptures are not my work, and I have no idea whether the artist who created these delightful works was a synesthete. My photos are a few years old, so be advised that they might not reflect how things currently are at this location.

I haven’t been to the Piney Lakes Sensory Playground for a few years, but as I remember it, it was a delightful playground for kids of a range of ages, and quite unique among Perth playgrounds because of it’s striking and amusing top-quality sculptures in a range of styles, many of them usable as play props, and it was also outstanding for the way that the landscape of the area is interesting and an adventure for younger kids and a play element in it’s own right. There was one of those big climbing-net things in the inner area of the playground, and a sand area and a fairly limited range of moving play equipment. Beyond the playground were some fake lakes with frogs (they sounded like tiny crinias, heard but not seen), bike paths and a boardwalk, and beyond the grassed area there was natural bushland surrounding the actual swampy small lake, which had a variety of interesting sculptures around it. This whole area could have changed since then. I hope it hasn’t.

The set of sculptures depicting letters of the alphabet at the Pinely Lakes playground are there as a word puzzle for the children to search for, so I guess one can assume that this was the only inspiration for their creation, and personification synaesthesia might have had nothing to do with it. Whatever the case, as a synaesthete who involuntarily sees letters as personified with characteristics such as genders and personalities, and also displaying bodily orientations and sometimes facial expressions and also their own colours (grapheme colour synaesthesia), I am charmed by the way that many of the letter sculptures at Piney Lakes are congruent with my own synaesthesia. The ears on the silvery lower case letter E sculpture are placed in just the right spot for the letter to depict something like a smiling face facing toward what I see as the right side of the text. This is how I see the letter E personified, but the silver colour is not congruent with my colour for the letter E. The letter Y at the playground is completely congruent with my synaesthesia, being bright yellow and of an active and playful disposition. I very much enjoy that colourful sculpture. There are two letter Ss at the playground, one in a colour that is the same as my letter S, but written backwards, the other delightfully psychedelic and imposing. The giant O is also pretty-much “the right colour”. You can see why I like this place so much! I think of it as “Synaesthesia Park”, a playground of the mind.

A silvery letter E with ears

A sculpture that looks like synaesthesia at Piney Lakes Sensory Playground

This sculpture is oddly congruent with my ordinal-linguistic personification synaesthesia and my grapheme-colour synaesthesia, because in this sculpture the letter Y is yellow and also appears to have a playful temperament. It’s a rather odd and enjoyable experience to view a whimsical piece of art that is a reflection of the idiosyncrasies of my mind.

Sculpture in a public place that looks like synaesthesia

The letter Y frolics with two lavender-coloured dogs at Piney Lakes playground

At First Sight by The Stems (1987)

Some more music from an old Perth band with a music clip that features scenes from WA from long ago. This clip includes many scenes from the grounds of the unforgettable Cottesloe Civic Centre. This place is connected to my synaesthesia because when I think of the concept of Charles Darwin (the biologist who gave us the theory of evolution) I see, as though it is an automatically appearing illustration or backdrop for the concept, particular scenes of the lower level of the grounds of this Civic Centre, the level that is, and has been for many years, a children’s playground. At one point in this music clip the band members are shown spinning around on the large metal roundabout that used to be found in this playground. I don’t think it has been there for a long time, as it did offer as many opportunities for serious injury as it did for fun. Lawyers design children’s playgrounds these days.

The Charles Darwin thing is fairly complex. Different scenes of this area are linked with different aspects of Darwin’s life. The concept of Darwin being a failed clergyman (and was he also a failed doctor?) while coming from an aristocratic family, leaving him with the opportunity to pursue a much more original, free-thinking, productive, influential and brilliant life triggers the vision of the scene around one of the stairways that lead down to this lower level of the civic centre grounds, as seen from the playground level. The concept of the death of one of the much-loved children of Charles Darwin and Darwin’s reflections on that sad event evokes a vision of the stairway that goes from the lower playground level to a street below, Overton Gardens, as viewed from the playground level.

I could speculate about why in my mind these concepts and these scenes have become wedded. It is easy to see how a person who has not travelled overseas might unconsciously view the grounds of the Cottesloe Civic Centre as a place to house the spirit of Charles Darwin. This place is like a little taste of living like an English Victorian aristocrat, with a grand estate on stunningly landscaped grounds. This is why it is an incredibly popular choice as a wedding venue. But why is Charles down in the kids’ playground? Did Charles Darwin ever really grow up? Did he ever get a real job? One could perhaps argue that his brilliant intellectual adventures were exploratory and unstructured and free like child’s play. Perhaps the stairs leading down to the playground symbolize Darwin’s descent to a lower level of the social ladder after failing to meet expectations regarding his career as an adult. Perhaps the stairway leading down from the children’s playground to exiting the civic centre grounds altogether is a suitable symbol for the death of a child. I know that I never consciously chose these symbols, and these neurological connections formed in a natural process.

At First Sight by The Stems (1986)