Adolescent decoration, by Isidore Tillers
Germany-based Australian Isidore Tillers revisits her childhood bedroom:
I went home a few months ago. And by home I don’t mean my beloved Sydney. Despite spending a good part of my childhood, as well as my undergraduate study years in Sydney, when I speak of home now I mean a particular rambling weatherboard house in a town of 8,000 in the rugged Snowy Mountains.
Every time I come back to Australia I try to spend as much of my time as possible in Sydney. I do, however, always make the five-hour (500km) pilgrimage south to the house in which I spent my adolescence and where my parents still live. Of course, I haven’t officially lived there for ten years. Not that you could tell from my bedroom; until my most recent trip, my teenage bedroom has remained more or less in tact.
Early on in my uni days I would still sleep in this room. I liked the cosiness and supposed privacy. The room itself is the smallest of the bedrooms tacked on the various sides of the largest room in the house (which my artist father claimed when we first moved in as his studio). As a teenager I liked being stuck out one end of the house; the poplars roaring in the wind outside the window; the surprise of disturbing a wallaby when I accidentally flung my rolling blinds up with a huge whack in the mornings.
A few years into my studies it became clear that to sleep in my old room wasn’t entirely practical. My father’s massive collection of art monograms and catalogues had begun to encroach into my sister’s and my bedrooms. My mother decided it would be a good place for her office. Filling cabinets migrated from the other end of the house. But more than anything else it was always freezing (being based in Europe inevitably means using up my summer holidays to visit the Southern Hemisphere, and while winter in Sydney could pass for a mild spring in Germany, the frostiness of winter nights in Cooma is by no means imaginary). So when I was visiting unaccompanied I’d sleep in my sister’s warm bed, and if I had company we’d have the privilege of sleeping in the spare bedroom.
This August my mother tentatively asked me if I would mind terribly if we started the process of turning it into an office for the admin things my father wants to leave in the house (she has finally succeeded in kicking him out of the house and into his brand new state-of-the-art separate studio). But in effect it hasn’t really been my room for a long time. A few boxes of possessions from my Sydney flat that didn’t quite fit into my suitcase, one section of the wardrobe still dedicated to my mostly un-wearable dress-up purchases, and my carved wooden frame single bed are all that remain. When I arrived on my most recent visit the clearest signifier that it had been mine were the walls.
Like any aesthetically minded adolescent I had lovingly adorned every single inch of surface with an eclectic mix of postcards, photographs, random quotes, art and images torn from magazines. What my room lacked in size, I had made up for in decoration. I used to spend my free evenings re-decorating the walls; scouring through Vogue and Bazaar for images to tear out, and mixing them up with old family photos, drawings and the like. In my bedroom’s most recent incarnation (circa. 2002) I had a black & white wall, gothic fairytale themed walls, a few pics of Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom and some arnette stickers thrown in, with the photos that didn’t quite fit either theme relegated to the outside of the wardrobe. The wardrobe itself is a large wooden thing we put in about fifteen years ago, but never got around to painting. You can still see the mismatched edging in contrast to the main wooden panels. Whether this is (as my sister says), because we weren’t supposed to paint the rooms as that would ironically disturb our father’s real painting in the studio, or rather, because I couldn’t bring myself to take down my wallpapering for a period long enough to actually paint the darn thing, I’m still not entirely sure.
In any case the walls hadn’t changed for quite some time. They had aged though. Cobwebs that had started out in the periphery corners of the room were inching their way into view. The lumps of blue-tack holding the scraps of magazines and paper to the walls had hardened and stained through to the front, leaving sad asymmetric circles. The harsh Australian sun had bleached out the colours. Eleven years later, it was clearly time to let the decorating scheme go.
And so that afternoon in August I began ripping down my things. I put aside the images I wanted to keep in one of my new plastic storage tubs (enthusiastically bought by my mother at the $2 shop, “Look! With Wheels and Lids!” for a lot more than $2), ripped up the old quotes and put aside the rest for recycling. At the time I didn’t think twice about it, but the next day I felt somewhat melancholic that I hadn’t made a point to take just one last pic.
Words and pictures by Isidore Tillers.