One way the boredom and dissatisfactions from living in Adelaide could be relieved was through gestures of rebellion and revolt. Another was through hanging out in the shopping precincts, arcades and going shopping in Rundle Mall. Leisure time, freedom, and choice was increasingly expressed through consumption. Everyday life was becoming a realm of bland consumption.
My experience of drifting (dérive with its flow of acts and encounters) through these spaces of consumption was that the mall or arcade cuts us off from one another by encouraging the individual pursuit of stuff as well as cutting us off from the world. The street in contrast is about connecting people with one another and that is what turns space into place.
There were very few spaces in Adelaide the 1980s that became gathering places. Placemaking was not part of the urban designers at the Adelaide City Council. So the arcade becomes a consumer bubble, a way where people waste time doing little but watching each other. Or being lost in their own thoughts and emotions. Frozen moments in everyday life.
By the 1980s the flair, reform (around gender and sexuality and aboriginal rights and racial discrimination) and excitement of the Dunstan decade of the 1970s had gone. The Athens of the South in the 1970s became a rust belt town in the 1980s and 1990s without there being much acknowledgement that the state was losing its progressive tendencies, that people were resting on the laurels of the past, and that its past as a grey, conservative and genteel backwater still cast a long shadow.
What still shaped the urban experience was the sense of being isolated in a city that felt too small and was so very far away from the rest of the world. I could sense a dark side a city that was whose self-image is premised on it being a child of the liberal Enlightenment. Adelaide was a large country town, that fancied itself to be a cosmopolitan city that was part of a civilised liberal and egalitarian society. However, it had large urban areas of social deprivation amongst its blue collar working class due to the negative impact of economic globalization on its old manufacturing industries.
The theory was that Adelaide was a stifled and inbred city, which unlike Melbourne and Sydney, that had few outlets for people’s frustrations, anger and angst. The conservatives held that there was an underclass world of joblessness, dysfunction and welfare dependency in the northern suburbs, such Salisbury North. In this world of welfare dependancy and broken families, damaged and often traumatised people (from being sexually abused and beaten as children) are caught up in destructive relationships (friends and lovers). They live a damaged life of tangled relationships, involving de factos, husbands, wives, casual partners, step-children and half-siblings.