VCA Digital Archive: The City

Still from Pleasure Domes. 1987. Maggie Fooke. Image supplied.
Still from Pleasure Domes. 1987. Maggie Fooke. Image supplied.

The VCA Digital Archive is a living audiovisual record of student films that date back to 1966. The articles in this series respond thematically to the depth and breadth of the collection. Enjoy!

By Yvette Putra

In accepting the challenge to write about the VCA Digital Archive, I responded to the films 296 Smith Street, Pleasure Domes, and Radium. Their selection was simple – I had intended to write about Melbourne, and I wanted three films to tell me three stories about the city.

Yes, these films do tell stories of Melbourne – the outsider, the native, the lost, the found, the sacred, the profane, the ugly, the beautiful. But these elements ebb and flow within and across all three stories, at the time of their viewing and in the time that follows. I realised – far later than I should have – that it was not easy to write a singular response.

I felt that one solution was to identify what bound these elements, these stories. And that is, to me, the need to love the city. In needing to love the city, we transpose all our human emotions, and that is our folly. After all, the city is the city. Any emotion – anything more than glass and concrete – is the result of our own human traces.

T h e C i t y

I once tried to love the city.

My mistake was thinking it could love me back. Cities don’t do that.

Cities breathe and eat, sometimes sleep, sometimes die. But they never give up anything for you.

So when I spoke to the city and it spoke back – it was only my own words I heard, reverberating in manifold echo.

And, sometimes, I didn’t understand the words.

When I was lonely and looked for comfort – it was only my own face I saw, reflecting back in black glass puddles and muddy windows.

When I threw out my arms and stumbled through the streets – any kiss I had returned was from concrete, any warmth was from my own hands.

And electric lights.

Because cities can’t love you. They can only take from you. And then what’s left of you is for you to decide.

Yvette Putra 2018

Yvette Putra’s training is in architecture, her profession in architectural history and theory, her interest in writing. She spent her childhood in Asia and migrated to Australia as a young adult. She speaks a few languages and understands a couple more. She love arts and film.

The VCA Digital Archive series of articles was commissioned as part of a grant from the University of Melbourne, Student Services Amenities Fee. University of Melbourne staff and students and some industry people dipped into the FTV archive and watched films based on themes. The idea was to use the archive as stimulus to curate and create. Some responses are completely creative, others are reviews, others are word art pieces.

The full collection will be available for research from mid-2019. In the meantime you can find a selection of more than 100 films live on our YouTube page.