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These places were like resistors on a circuit board. My thoughts stuck to them. They had auras: each gave me a strong feeling that there was, embedded amid the everyday, an order of unpredictable things.
In her delicately wrought essays and hand-drawn maps, Vanessa Berry describes her encounters with unusual, forgotten or abandoned places in the city in which she was born and raised, using their details to open up repositories of significance, and to create an alternative city, a Mirror Sydney, illuminated by memory and imagination. She writes at a time when Sydney is being disassembled and rebuilt at an alarming rate. Her determined observation of the over-looked and the odd, the hidden and the enigmatic – precisely those details whose existence is most threatened by development – is an act of preservation in its own right, a testament to what she calls ‘the radical potential of taking notice’.
Berry’s work combines a low-fi DIY approach with an awareness of the tradition of philosophical urban investigation. Her unique style of map illustration was developed through the making of zines and artworks, collaging detailed line drawings with text from typewriters and Letraset.
Conjuring up a shadow city of forgotten fantasies and dreams, Mirror Sydney offers similar pleasures to David Ulin’s walker’s Los Angeles or Iain Sinclair’s dispatches from a rapidly changing London. I found my heart jumping with joy as it brought parts of my lost city back to life. Delia Falconer