If you are a film fanatic, literary lover, china collector, music maniac, home decorator/ hoarder, aspiring artist, sports savant, car crazed, tool toter, equestrian enthusiast, vintage votary, furniture freak, pre loved partisan, then maybe just maybe, you will like visiting the many amazing auction houses, garage sales, markets, second hand warehouses and op shops this country has on offer.
For me, there is nothing quite like the feeling of stepping into these types of places, as it is literally like walking through time. Fragments of history all piled together haphazardly, often looking like there is no structure-but the owners of these stores would disagree. Smooth symmetry, ordered chaos-there is a plan for these little pieces of nostalgia. All laid out with purpose and vision for its next life.
I could spend hours browsing the shelves filled with anything from vintage toys, sporting or car memorabilia, avant-garde art work, suitcases and clothes, medicine bottles to electronics, furniture to signage to tool boxes. When you enter these places, you get to travel the world. Every single item has a beautiful story attached to it. Maybe that old medicine bottle was used during the war in Germany, then was packed away in a worn down suitcase, migrated to Australia and helped the sick, become well. I always love opening the front cover of old books and seeing what is written. I wonder if whoever wrote that special message would realize that one day it would end up in the hands of a stranger. So many lost messages that many will never care to hear or read. There is a sadness to this, but also something quite poetic.
As we passed through post modernism, where nothing was considered as new anymore-maybe this is why these places of bric a brac have soured. I always liked this quote by Jim Jarmuch “nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” So everything I now write, is it just some weird mash up of things that I have read or learnt, can one ever be truly original?
If they can’t, maybe this is why people have gone bat shit crazy for pre loved relics and the smart ones are making a very lucrative lifestyle out of selling this stuff. Since the founding of consumer-consumer or business-business sales services like ebay in 1995, the idea of just ‘throwing out’ our rubbish has taken an interesting turn. My grandmother and I always used to have conversations about this. Her generation had the one TV for 30-40 years; whereas she couldn’t understand how my generation-one of disposable incomes & materialism would say- if it breaks, I’ll just buy a new one. After all, with technology racing ahead at warp speed, as soon as you buy, it’s value immediately depreciates. So what happens when we live in a world of such throwaway mentality? Do we all forget to value these items and take pride in them for the life they have lived and travelled?
As I visit places like Chapel Street Bizarre, Camberwell Market on a Sunday, the Hock Inn Garage Sales in Horsham, to the local St Vinnies op around the corner, I wonder why all these ‘things’ were given away and the travel they took to come to its resting place. Was it for money, because someone died, a reminder of a past love, a broken dream, a revenge throw-out, a childhood plaything no longer loved or maybe the owner just thought it was junk. When I was moving a few years ago, I had to pack away a whole lot of my stuff into boxes and for over a year they stayed contained. When I opened them up to move into a bigger home, I thought how strange that these items were so special to me at the time, but then became, well, nothing in the end. It just made me take stock off all the crap people can buy because you think at the time it might make you look smarter or cooler, or make life more meaningful or efficient.
Are we really helping the economy by buying worthless crap or just assisting in clogging up in the landfills? I know I try to be more mindful of these things….or at least by visiting these places and buying something that was once someone else’s-I can find value and worth in my very own little piece of history and not always buy the newest version of whatever it is I think I need. Even if it is a tobacco jar or old piano stand. Or maybe I just browse those shelves, sift through the pieces, take a moment to appreciate its story and then move on.