Flotsam flip flops


Foresaken footware is given centre stage at Rob Goldie's first exhibition. Washed Up opens Friday December 6 from 6pm, continuing until January 5 at Skylight Gallery SUNSTUDIOS Melbourne. A collaboration with artist Chris Drummond. 

What can you share about Chris Drummond's practice and how he went about collecting the abandoned footware?

Growing up in Inverloch, Chris has a lifetime of exploring the coastline. He started collecting thongs around 7 years ago as a result of picking rubbish while walking along the beach - borne out of a care for the environment fostered by his mum and dad.

I've been going down there for around 20 years and in that time have walked the beach countless times with Chris, his mum and dad and now my kids. Someone in the group never fails to return without collecting some kind of rubbish - Chris uses found string or rope to tie multiple thongs together on particularly bountiful walks.

Washed Up by Rob Goldie

He refers to the inlet in Inverloch as a vacuum cleaner - stuff gets washed in on the tide and never finds its way back out, getting stuck in the mangroves or deposited way up on the shore by high tides.

Tell me a little about how this collaboration began. Had you previously had any interest in thongs?

The idea for a show a came about last summer when my kids wanted to count Uncle Chris's thongs. We had known of his collection for a few years. But this was the first time we'd laid them all out. It was then that the sheer volume and what that represented hit me.

Going through them one by one, it became clear that they all had their own personalities and it would be really interesting to photograph them.

Is anything known about the previous owners?

Not specifically.

For the most part they're single thongs and not pairs which really suggests that they have been washed up rather than just left behind or forgotten.

They're also such a universal bit of attire - kids, adults, men and women - we all wear them and usually to the beach.

How did you approach the documentation of the thongs? What decisions were involved in the photography and curation of the show?

It was really about archiving them - trying to preserve and present them in the closest state to how they would have been found. From a visual point of view, they're quite simple but graphic at the same time and such an iconic thing - particularly in Australia.

Once I'd sorted them in to colors - their level of interest for me was then determined by how much they had deteriorated, what print or logo was on them and which era they were from. Once I had narrowed them down, the different character in each one started to stand out. When photographing them, I really just wanted them to look like they were sitting on the sand in the midday sun, as they had been for who knows how long.

Washed Up by Rob Goldie

What has the response been like from people you've spoken to about the work so far?

In my 20 years in and around the photography industry in Melbourne, I haven't spent too many days behind the camera so an exhibition definitely wasn't something I has intentions of. But the support and response right from when I first floated the idea has been amazing and ultimately the catalyst for me to see the project through.

One of the best things sabot working at SUNSTUDIOS is the relationships I get to forge with customers over long periods of time. They become more than customers and there's a bunch of them that have supported this and me in their own way and for that I'm very grateful.

Do you have a favourite thong and what makes it stand out for you?

There's so many good ones but although it probably didn't shoot the best, there's one where the owner thought so much of it they repaired the strap by replacing it with string. After going to so much trouble, I'm devastated for them that they lost it.

This is your first exhibition. What have you learned about editing and curatorial process?

I've got a lot to thank my wife Julia for. She has such a great eye and was very helpful in selecting what worked together and which ones were best to leave out. If it were me, they would have all ended up on the wall!

What are the key things you hope people take away from this work?

I'm often inspired by simplicity, you know - subtlety, small actions, life's little moments - i find that they often have the biggest impact. So hopefully by presenting such a basic item in a different light, these images can spark at the very least a conversation about the footprint we're leaving that hopefully results in small changes in behaviour that collectively has a big impact.

Washed Up by Rob Goldie opens Friday December 6 from 6pm, continuing until January 5 at Skylight Gallery SUNSTUDIOS Melbourne.

Washed Up by Rob Goldie