In 1994 Joseph Cindric, the “trolley man” of Sydney streets, died after walking between Walsh Bay and Hyde Park every day of his life. Known to all of Sydney, since the end of World War 2, he nonetheless died alone and homeless with artist Richard Goodwin, his assistant and 2 nurses the only people at his funeral in Rookwood Cemetery. Goodwin had produced a number of exhibitions, which looked at this singular existence of Cindric, and his relationship to a machine. The machine, now in the Powerhouse Museum thanks to Goodwin, was loaded with only things to keep the trolley going including his tradesman’s tools. Cindric wasn’t an alcoholic and he had a pension. Nevertheless he lived this homeless life of prosthetic attachment with the regularity of a clock. Cindric’s existence fit Goodwin’s ideas, as an artist/architect, for what he calls “Prosthetic Architecture” and “Exoskeleton” as ways of making art about the insect-like human condition.
Goodwin became obsessed with Cindric in the 1970s making an Australian Film Commission funded film in 1980 and replicas of his trolley several times. He granted Cindric the honour of being the only true inhabitant of Sydney and the city’s conscience – his life a moving monument to nomadism. He was a public artwork in the flesh according to Goodwin. Yet his past was dark and unknowable.
Since the 1970s Richard Goodwin has made many major public artworks in Sydney and pioneered the hybridity of artist/architectural practice and theory, leading to his role as Professor at UNSW Art and Design in Paddington.
His career spans nearly 40 years of practice, including his inclusion in 3 Venice Biennales of Architecture, and numerous sculpture awards. He has pushed the site of public art to the skin of architecture, questioning architecture itself. More recently he is critical of what is now happening within the genre of public art, especially its compliance with bureaucracy and complicity with the urban planning of Barangaroo. Goodwin is reprising his Joseph Cindric work, attaching himself to a replica trolley, to become Cindric and forming a doppelganger for the city. The work is inscribed with the words “Barangaroo Masterplan” on a black box on the trolley, and also features a gilt bronze replica model of the new proposed Casino on the front.
“Barangaroo Doppelganger” is a performance artwork in which Goodwin will retrace the steps of Cindric and his trolley, over a period of one year. This endurance work questions the phenomenon of the inclusion of such a monolith as the Casino, from outside what was already a compromised urban planning process.
Public art has a proven track record in both enhancing and critiquing the city. Yet we rarely see artist’s opposition to city planning and political issues affecting the culture and social construction of the city.
The city is a plastic material for the arts, not just a site.
In an age of fear, conservatism, light shows, and fireworks, this performance calls on art to lead rather than to follow.