Elizabeth Day, CAUTION! THE LAW IS NOT ALWAYS JUST (II), 2012. Installation view, Building 140, Cockatoo Island. Bollards, plastic tape, hazard bunting, barrier mesh, fencing. Photo: Claire Taylor/GREYSPACE.

Melanie Daniels, “CAUTION!”, chapter in Drawing Lines in the Sand, exhibition catalogue.
Artists: Julia Davis, Elizabeth Day, Christian Edwardes, Lisa Jones + Derek Allan, Geoff Kleem, Adam Norton.
Exhibition on Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour, 16 Feb – 18 Mar 2012.


Like theologians of the Apocalypse, Slavoj Žižek marshals the term “End Times”, but to characterise the brink on which the world is at present sitting.

That brink is a crisis of an ecological, economic and/or bio-ge netic nature.

In the face of it, the world has witnessed an increase in the levels of anxiety and chaos; and institutions now legislate far more than before.

Fear manifests in caution, heightening Occupational Health and Safety laws, themselves possibly a result of this increased anxiety and chaos.

Moreover, according to Arjun Appadurai, who utilises the recent retheorisings of chaos to describe the proliferations now occurring, population movements and migrations are expected to become more chaotic.

And barriers seem to be increasing and increasingly pervasive.

In such a light, and drawing forth from the cast grass piece The Law is Not Always Just (I), Caution!: The Law is Not Always Just (II) deploys the mesh used at the side of roads, building sites and other places of movement and turbulence.

It seems every day of the week some new barrier occurs in our streets that may denote a change, a council ruling or even a new bi-law demanding observance.

The spatial world is increasingly full of striated orderings and delineations.


And for some invisible reason beyond us: “DON’T TURN RIGHT!”

This work rebels quietly.

It notices and asks us to reconsider these transformations and the deeper layers they may be signifying, especially that the place of exhibition, Cockatoo Island, was once the land solely of the Aboriginal people, before the English established its prison here, its law displacing and obliterating Aboriginal law .

The island became a place of industry and wartime machinery and now a museum of sorts, preserving the short past of the island.

The regulated, ruled, gridded space perhaps now exists as and for what??

At the least, for the “unruly” artist to throw caution to the winds, graphically drawing attention, via these meshes (from China no less!) that now demarcate our streets in the most inconspicuous of ways, to the increasing regulation of not only our urban landscape but ourselves.

It asks too if it could be that the grid even in a certain sense rebels against gridding, against itself even, and that is at work in the mesh.

In accordance with the theoretical revising of chaos, it asks too could it be that chaos is never not at work in the grid itself, in the mesh.

Could it be that, as Alan Cholodenko offered this concise definition of chaos—chaos is not only the predictability of unpredictability but at the same time the unpredictability of predictability—and it is that that is at work in the grid of the mesh?

Or better, at play?

For Day that unpredictably resides in the fact that these utilitarian devices harbour a latent aesthetic play of form and colour that animates our environment even while executing their function of demarcation, a play The Law is Not Always Just (II) itself seeks to exhibit and play with.

Melanie Daniels

Exhibition documentation Drawing Lines in the Sand