TIM BURNS, EXPLODED UTOPIA: a ‘typical bourgeois residence’ outside York

Art + Design


In his own way, Tim plays it safe. He likes the peace and quiet of the country, but he likes to stay in touch with things through electrical goods. Some think he’s odd. Some of the passengers of the QE2 thought he was odd when they came down the gang plank to the Fremantle passenger terminal to where an art boutique was being held with lots of stalls of bougie art. No doubt he tried to make the grade but he didn’t fit in. His stall was directly facing the steps so was the first they saw. I think the other stall holders must have been furious. He was stripped bare down to his dacks behind the counter and was grunting and screaming this jeremiad, as if out of Revelations, bringing his palm crashing down on the counter, warning them of the life ever-after, telling them they would meet their end, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, with haircloth and ashes. I don’t know what the fuck he was doing. I think everyone thought he was as mad as a cut snake. I thought he was great.  

My worst hour with Tim was at a party. At the time he ran this tv programme out of Curtin Uni I think. It came on at midnight or some more unearthly hour. He would sit in a chair waiting for the phone to ring. He was always ‘looking for the body’. (We will see there is a body where he lives.) People rang up not knowing what was going on. He would rant at them or lose the plot in some other way. He explained the programme thus: ‘We’ (he always says ‘we’ but it’s usually just him. It makes him seem like part of a mass movement, though I suppose there were technicians and such, and the occasional drunken accomplice) ‘we are trying to make the worst programme there is, and believe you me there’s a lot of fucking competition.’ It was at that late night party that he invited me to come on the show. He was leaving. I will always regret that I didn’t go. I didn’t want to lose my job. It was a bad reason. But that’s probably why I drive a bigger car than him, though he still drives his faster than mine and why he’s doing a film retro in NYC at Anthology Film Archives early Feb ’16 and I’m not..  

Anyway, this is where he lives. Let’s call it ‘EXPLODED UTOPIA’, ‘cos that’s his sign.

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You approach from a railroad crossing, like an American film

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Then you get ‘The Works’. Very ‘classical’: is that a Roman obelisk?

Why is there a tyre on it?

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You get to the house. There’s my car. 

There’s his car.  What a loser.

Things are poking out.

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Likes his plants.

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That’s him with the goggles. Very ‘chez lui’. 

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That’s his mate. Farms over the road.

And a home within a home 

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Where he controls the universe

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Keeps his bedroom tidy (like I do).

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And up to the mezzanine…

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And the view back down…

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Things you might need

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and a lipstick chair

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and some poster boys

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The Buddha rocks

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and leads to the chain gang that keeps it standing 

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after the storm

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There’s always a body

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and a burnt out wreck

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and a drowning scene

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and a safety rail

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who cut the groove?

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Don’t look back

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where life follows art

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with superhuman strength (that’s Chris Hopewell 

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who painted this)

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and subhuman ease (that’s me)

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they’re Cunderdin boys 

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who’re proud of themselves

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‘cos they grew up here

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which looks like this

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with skies like this near the old cemetery

(see John Kinsella’s short story ‘The House near the Cemetery’ and this poem)

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and back to his house: lichen and shoe

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burnt out rock

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by Aboriginal fire

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Tim’s retirement home

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still always a struggle

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and heirlooms with Christ

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all well secured

with power to connect

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to the outside world

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and water supply

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and fruit and veg

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with lots in the fridge

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and machines that you’ll need

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though they rot every day

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in a colourful way

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now both homes together

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with plenty on top

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and a general view

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of plenty to do 

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like lookin’ for gold

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just a Cundedin boy

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who likes a good toy

and fuckin’ with it

and that kind of shit 



Video courtesy of ABC Arts