The German Consulate in Melbourne

1 June 2014

As seen from the street the building was reminiscent of a
German consulate in Melbourne.

— GIORGIO DE CHIRICO

… take any risks you like, but never listen to a deconstructionist.
— CHRISTOPHER KOCH
author, and grandson of J. A. B. Koch,
architect of the German Consulate in Melbourne


Abel Tasman, whose sea-faring adventures in the great southern oceans — having cartographed Van Dieman’s land out of the austral island, plotted an inverted Novaya Zemlya, and pondered Psalmanazar’s boast to have eaten human faeces or flesh in his Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa (2nd ed.) — found his most ardent admirer in one Johann Augustus Bernard Koch. As soon as Johnny “Kokosnuß” was old enough to dream (he was the kind of boy who would have asked to be born), he dreamed of the explorers’ strange land, where style stood preontological to Hegel, & prephenomenological to Husserl; where the body was subjected to nothing more than an ozone-depleted Atlantide or the brunt of a bronzed sun in paradise. At the age of eight — in 1855 — he was to journey, after a short circumnavigation (divagation) of Die Künstler, to Melbourne, capital of the British colony of Victoria, where he was to aspire to become a speculator on the Zeitgeist (for his signature was daedalian and case sensitive). — Which would not have taken even the most sittlich of the nineteenth-century golddiggers by surprise! And so he found himself flung into a quasi-respectable milieutopia. Like all those around him, he was from somewhere else. Two worlds: one substantial and legitimate; the other, irreal and exoticist. The island continent was more than a real frontier, however; it was the last “Other”. Yet, despite its quickly filling “emptiness” (terra nullius), it never did transcend for him the idea of the New World as such, nor counter the predominance of the transatlantic. It was, at base, base coin — from the silver dump to culture as exhibit. To the splendid mansions he built, to the German Consulate in Melbourne, which only a poet or painter could ever dream up …



Acknowledgements

The poem ‘the german consulate in Melbourne’ was first published in pointcounterpoint: New and selected poems 1983 – 2008 (Salt Publishing, 2007).

 


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