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Re/construction: Jack Mundey & the Green Bans

BY The Cross Art Projects | 22-Oct-2020
Re/construction brings together artists, one community group and two curators to reread the legacy of Jack Mundey and the Green Bans. Jack Mundey's whole life was one giant spatial project. But he didn't need art to do what he did, he had the context of the union movement. Discussing Jack Mundey's concept of green bans and public space as a 'spatial project' in an art context, is implying a common link between the union movement and art, which makes us aware of the way both offer room for alternative thinking or challenges to mainstream thinking.
Venue: The Cross Art Projects
Address: 8 Llankelly Place, Kings Cross 2011
Date: 31 October to 21 November 2020
Web: https://www.crossart.com.au/
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Call: (02) 9357 2058
Re/construction: Jack Mundey & the Green Bans
Fiona MacDonald, Taking it to Melbourne Trades Hall, 2020. Watercolour on Arches 300gsm paper. 53 x 71cm. Photo: Mike Oakey
Sydney’s Green Bans were the world’s first urban uprising over planning, heritage and housing justice. In 1971, an alliance of builders’ labourers and musicians, wharfies and artists, pensioners and the suburban middle class made history. Mundey secretary of the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation, led his comrades to the environmental barricades in June 1971 alongside a united group of “middle-class women” from Hunters Hill who fought to save a remnant of Sydney Harbour bush. This was the first of a series of important intersectional alliances with communities. It became a new political model. At the time Mundey was a non-doctrinaire communist who later joined the Greens party.

Re/construction re-enacts and re-animates texts and slogans from the unofficial archives that record sit-ins or peace marches for civil rights, gay and lesbian or women’s rights and environment movements. In this case a portion of Jack Mundey's papers donated to the Trades Hall Collection are reviewed at Sydney Trades Hall.

Green Bans embraced other heritage suburbs, most of them working class and many involving saving low-cost or public housing but the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation fought targeted battles for the rights of women, Aboriginals and gays. The establishment Sydney Morning Herald was quick to call them “mere builders’ labourers” and “proletarian town planners”, just conservationists were called "mere housewives". From Kellys Bush onwards, the green ban era was just 4 years until the de-registration of the NSW Builders Labours’ Federation. The additional year dedicates 1975 to their legacy: the renewal of Woolloomoolloo Public Housing, proudly declared a "world leader" for its architecture and consultation model.