James Dive of The Glue Society likes his artworks to sneak up on people, and he is using the public forum of Art & About to do just that. Every day until October 5, his project, Us, gathers groups of random people – from tourists to business people, all strangers to one another – at the Queen Victoria Building forecourt for an impromptu group shot reminiscent of old school photos.
For Dive, Us is a way of bringing to life an idea he’d had kicking around for a while. “I became enamoured with the idea of these spontaneous groups that form for different reasons all the time in our world,” he says. “In the end, the best way to communicate this idea was to almost make the work behave like a net that could capture a cross-section of the community, just for the briefest moment in time.”
It is free to participate in, open to everyone and works on two levels; providing an experience that is fun, while illuminating an urban – and human – need for positivity and connection.
Participants line up – usually after seeing the previous group have its photo taken and wanting a piece of the action – and are asked to order themselves shortest to tallest, “a great way to get to know someone,” Dive laughs.
From there on in, formalities commence: short people in the front row, tallest at the back, feet together, chins up, sunglasses off. “There are some people who get given the front row who are devastated to learn that, even in their adulthood, they’re still stuck in the front row, as they were at school,” Dive jokes. “Then we take the photo and keep going until we’ve got it right.” Each person receives a signed and numbered print to take home before the photo is uploaded to a Tumblr site for posterity.
As a tourist and transport hub, the QVB provides this cross-section, but incidentally also helped sow the seed of the idea two years ago. “Only a block down from where the artwork is now, I was knocked off my bicycle,” Dive says, “and this group sort of formed and helped me and got me on my way. But to this day I have no idea who those people are, and ever since then I’ve been interested in groups that form over any kind of reason; whether that be in an elevator or because someone’s dropped their oranges from their shopping bag and everyone’s picking them up.
Dive did not expect the comradery he’s seen or the way in which the group gels so quickly; the banter in the queue and the applause when it’s a wrap.
“The artwork has taken on a life of its own,” he says. “There’s a real optimism that’s almost tangible. Someone said to me that it demonstrates how much people want to connect and everyone is also commenting that it’s very timely.”
Us by James Dive and The Glue Society runs September 19 to October 5, 11am–6pm at the Queen Victoria Building Forecourt, corner George and Druitt Streets.
Visit usphotographs.tumblr.com to see photos as they’re posted daily.