Below stairs, while the neo-Toffs get off on their ironic displacement of the old order and social ascension, the wankery continues in the uber-trendy Cookie. Cookie looks like the half-baked brain bastard of a mouthy, over-the-hill promoter and a Media Studies undergraduate. While the bar serves ridiculous and expensive drinks alongside laughably pretentious snacks ("Hmm, what to have with my $10 beer? The Bettel Bliss Bombs DIY or the Drunken Prawns with garlic, coriander and Mekong whisky?") grating Latino house music seeps from the walls and silent films are projected without a soundtrack, serving only as preposterous decor, devaluing them almost beyond rescue. In the midst of all this, the dancing clowns strut in their Soviet kitsch shirts and badges. Quite what the building's other former tenants, the Communist Party of Australia, would make of this we can only imagine.
In 1940, the Australian government outlawed the Communist Party as a subversive force (this was before Uncle Joe was attacked and had a change of heart) and pitched battles were fought on the stairs of the building, as government agents tried to force their way in to arrest organisers and confiscate literature. It was a bitter and vital collision of political principle; those who saw themselves as the defenders of civilisation from Asiatic barbarity versus those who saw themselves as the servants of history, wiping away oppression. Neither position means anything now, not to the nu-aristocrats of cyber-capitalism who can appropriate the top hat and monocle or the hammer and sickle just as easily as each other, because they view both as below serious consideration. The re-naming this former-Communist HQ after a Labor prime minister was a point of political ownership (social democracy over Stalinism), but it made the mistake of taking its opposition seriously. By so overtly suppressing the past it gave political credence to that past. The power of the new masters is in their ability to co-opt the once potent symbols of potential enemies and drain them of meaning. Neither patrician nor proletarian symbolism denotes a serious political reality any longer, and so neither can begin to challenge the media oligarchy; the future is a pair of Vans stamping on a human face forever.
I for my part have decided to salute the forgotten idealists of Curtin House with a tribute to the tragic dream of the Mighty Soviet Union. Watch in admiration or disgust, but please, without irony.
As I write, the agents of ironical fascism will be preparing for the new season at the Rooftop Cinema on the top of Curtin House. Ready to chatter like apes and bask in semi-fictionalised nostalgia with screenings of The Goonies (SOLD OUT!!), Labyrinth and The Breakfast Club. While genuine classics of cinematic art (Metropolis, Battleship Potemkin) serve only as amusing wallpaper, the 80s fetishists gawp with brainless giggles at average documents of a barely remembered decade, manufacturing memories in their Mr T-shirts. Baudrillard was right, fool!