love and vandalism
A few weeks ago, I bumped into Genevieve in the corridor. She was very apologetic but had to tell me that something had happened to the drawing I had made for them in Swinburne Hall. Um, ok. A friend was visiting her at the library and she wanted to show her the whiteboard drawing in their work area of the wallaby and emu. Her friend is a librarian and archivist. They were admiring the drawing and then the woman reached out and stroked her finger across the drawing. Of course the drawing disappeared instantly under her touch leaving a a bright empty swatch where carefully rendered fur had been. I think they were both a bit shocked at how suddenly it vanished. I was pretty surprised by the story. I'm sure she hadn't meant to damage the drawing. It sounded like an unconscious spontaneous reaction to something interesting. It is such a powerful impulse to reach out and actually connect with something that interests or fascinates. I took my camera over to the area to document this strange gesture and to my surprise someone else had done it to the emu as well!
Some time ago I was at the Melbourne Zoo and we had arranged to go behind the scenes for a close encounter with the Sumatran tigers. The keeper explained the procedure including the thick yellow lines on the footpath in front of the enclosures. 'Do not cross the line and DO NOT put your fingers through the wire, you will lose them'. We laughed nervously, of course not! For our encounter we were each allowed to feed a big syringe of tasty milky vitamin stuff to a tiger through the cage mesh. My tiger came straight up to me and began greedily licking the end of the syringe. He stared at me with deep glowing eyes and the rich orange fur of his muzzle was only centimeters away. I was suddenly gripped by an overwhelming urge to touch this gorgeous creature. Just one little stroke of that velvety nose. I could just poke my fingers through... I felt hypnotized. We have to touch, we just can't not touch.
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Dominique Dunstan is a reference librarian and artist. She works at the State Library of Victoria and has recently completed the Jane Nicholas Staff Fellowship.