Concepts of The City
Crowded, overwhelming, hard work, polluted, stressful and chaotic. Not only words frequently used to describe western cities in a post-modern era, but also concepts portrayed through David Williamson’s play “Corporate Vibes”. The city is definitely a diverse place. There is not one phrase that can entirely describe a city, as its image is shaped not only through its aesthetic nature, but also the people who make it up, and the industries that it is well known for. People’s perceptions of the city vary with experience.
Therefore many texts are opinionated. Even Leo Meier’s stunning photograph of Sydney Harbour was carefully planned to produce a flawless representation of the city. It is clearly evident the city is a source of inspiration to composers. There are a vast range of texts featuring the city as a central element, which all convey varying images, ranging from iniquity to modernity, sexuality, beauty and freedom. Corporate Vibes by David Williamson is a play centralised around a city environment.
It is my belief the text inadequately portrayed the whole concept of the city, as Williamson stereotyped not only his characters, but focused his entire approach on business life – as unrealistic as it was. The corporate world is definitely a major component associated with the city, yet it is just one aspect of the typical civilized society. Williamson attempts to humour sympathetic audiences with the central theme a conflict between the traditional autocratic mode of management and modern schools of intervention.
He presents an idealistic organisational theory within the practical reality of corporate power structures, which itself contributes as a source of humour to the familiar city-dweller. The whole structure of a company is emphasised on a small scale by the composer. A Chief Executive Officer exists as well as a Marketing and Sales Manager, and the Human Resources and Equal Opportunities Officer. This prevalent business structure is used to identify with an audience, and satirize the often inefficient strategies used in the play.
Williamson also focused on the specific jobs, training and connections that are unique to the city, and are rarely seen in country towns. The company “Siddons Residential” designs apartments to fit the cityscape, and thus this whole notion is very much an urban issue. When discussing selling characteristics of apartments, the character of Megan mentioned, “People are sick of social isolation… the new move is towards connectedness, community, interaction”. This highlights the idea of anonymity and alienation in the city, which can be viewed on both a positive and negative basis.
It can be very comforting to walk down the street and know not one person has any idea as to who you are; yet this can also be a very lonely thought. Sexual freedom is a subject, which in itself can lead to isolation. Freedom in this manner is suggested several times throughout the play, especially in reference to James Glenby, who Sam refers to as “… the Oberfuhrer and great gay God of all things…. ” The management team also need to be very understanding when Brian expresses his aspiration to become an interior designer.
It is often considered effeminate for a male to enter such a profession, so Brian’s colleagues were mindful to be particularly sensitive when he expressed his aspirations to create his own unique style, – a style which can only be found in the city. This freedom of sexual expression is more firmly demonstrated by the liberty felt by minority groups in the city, such as homosexuals who express their uniqueness in such festivals as the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gra. Pressure to perform in a job is a significant issue in the corporate world.
Stress over the possibility of losing a job is constantly seen in the city where competitiveness is incredibly high. The character of Brian mentioned a typical complaint by employees, when he stated “… Flat structures. Get rid of middle management. Save costs by getting three times the work from half the staff. ” This idea of cutting jobs and thus overheads is rather a taboo amongst staff. Sam realized this problem, when he commented, “When guys hit fifty they’re finished… everyone gets rid of them these days. “
It is obvious this pressure originates from highly competitive work environments which advocate a ‘healthy’ struggle, for both jobs, and market share. Companies are out to make a profit, and have no issue with culling “dead wood”, as there will always be younger, more technologically advanced workers ready to fill empty places, and willing to work for less. The character of Sam summed up this idea when he remarked, “Feelings have nothing to do with business – you either perform, or you don’t perform”. Sam had no time for Deborah – ironically the EEO officer, who is an Aboriginal woman.
Sam is faced with the issues of multiculturalism and political correctness – matters that are ubiquitous in the city environment. Programs such as Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, aim to give people of all backgrounds and gender a chance in the working world. It is only in city areas, that such a necessity is recognised; and this whole notion has been incorporated in the play by both the race and gender of particular characters. Acceptance of diversity is essential in an urban environment, for life to run comparatively smoothly.
The corporate relationship between Deborah and Sam was constantly a hostile one, because he could not accept Deborah as a serious working associate due to her background and qualifications. Especially considering the city is such a large place in population, the acceptance of others is important to both a company and a city itself . Relationships must be maintained for the good of efficiency and productivity. People constantly rely on each other, and without people there would be no city. Even thousands of years ago, this notion was still respected.
The philosopher Aristotle criticized Plato’s idea that the greater the unity of the state the better, when he remarked, “A city only comes into being when the community is large enough to be self-sufficing. If self-sufficiency is to be desired, the lesser degree of unity is more desirable than the greater. ” Of course self-sufficiency is only achieved through co-operation and cohesion. What good is a large city if it will not work together? Here, Aristotle is essentially commenting that it is more beneficial to have a smaller unit of people working together in a community, rather than a large group moving in opposing directions.
Thus differences need to be overcome through acceptance, for people to collaborate and for a city to function. This stress and chaotic life experienced in the city can be contrasted by the perfect images often presented in travel brochures and on postcards. Leo Meier’s untitled photograph of Sydney Harbour is one such example. The text depicts the city to be a magnificent, aesthetic place, which is still in touch with nature. The setting of dusk captures the moment when the city is just beginning to come alive, and is by no means peaceful after a long day.
The composer has intended the city to be portrayed as continuous, yet an icon of beauty, which is distinctly Australian. The impression expressed by the image is that of vigilance and a never-sleeping city, yet one which has a famous nightlife and festive atmosphere. The working life by day has disappeared, and the social side of the city is just being revealed. The wide lens used, which has created a panoramic view, captures the sheer expanse of the Harbour. The water itself inspires a sense of calm, as it appears somewhat like glass, reflecting the chaos of the city nightlife above.
The Harbour contrasts the city to emphasise Sydney’s chaotic nature and the element that is never sleeping. The array of colours, the lighting used, and vantage point all stress the connection between the city and its historic and natural components. Corporate Vibes is simply centred on the internal and external struggles encountered by a company in the workforce, where as this photograph demonstrates the relationship between the economy and the city’s aesthetic qualities found in nature and historical structures.
Although Corporate Vibes focused on challenges and difficulties encountered in the workplace, its perception was not entirely negative. The poem ‘City Trip’ by Cynthia L Hoefling, is rather damning about the city in general, with the text centralising its main theme on depression and hopelessness. Despite this feature, the composer also attempts to create compassion for a city, in the midst of expressing pathos and negativity. The author personifies the city so that it can be compared to a mother, which is evident in the line “…
I have seen her weep for her children”. A once happy and lively place, now the city has been undermined by the evil of its inhabitants and their apathetic attitude, transforming it into a threatening, unnatural and lonely area. In the poem, the negative elements are seen to destroy the city’s aesthetic and cultural beauty, not so much that the audience comes to despise it, but more so feels sorrow for a potentially vivacious and striking feature of a nation. The poet portrays the city in a critical state, as depicted by the line “… eon lights flashing with urgency”. Unwelcome industries have invaded this centralised area. The prostitutes are described as “pooling like tears”, giving an impression of a great puddle, with each individual an insignificant, identical portion. What legitimate industry does exist is depersonalised, especially in the phrase “blind businessmen… in their world of grey and green”, which signifies homogeny, drudgery and conformity, while the colour green symbolises the dirty colour of money – a frequent drive for a city.
Ending the poem with the emphasis of architecture, described as “brick, steel and stone”, Hoefling has stressed the meaning to the poem – that the city is a lonely, depressing and futile place to live. The futility of a city is expressed nowhere as vividly as the modern appropriation of Little Red Riding Hood, titled ‘Scarlet’. The text gives a very interesting view of the City of Sydney. The story focuses on the drug and sex industry of the city, as well as its speed and corruption.
The phrase “Electric neon pulsed across the footpath… signs flashing Live Sex, Pussycat, Love Machine… contrasts the innocence, which would normally be associated with the life of an 11 year old. Scarlet was exposed to lesbians, prostitutes, and drug users. Every negative aspect a city could possibly possess, the author focuses on. No beauty can be found in the image portrayed – which is an image created to disturb. Dirty – morally, socially and physically, the city is illustrated as a repulsive place – a representation which can be contrasted with Leo Meier’s photograph of the Harbour, which gives a flawless image of the city. The story emphasises a dark and disturbing element, in which anonymity can be a dangerous aspect.
The concept of being a stranger, and thus being surrounded by strangers is a hazardous situation for Scarlet, who is lulled into a false sense of security by the ‘policeman’ – a figure of society that ironically symbolises protection. Represented as the modern jungle, the city is seen as an environment in which it is essential to possess knowledge in order to survive. Scarlet saved herself from the rapist by injecting him with an overdose of drugs. The disturbing aspect is that she learnt the method and amount to use from her mother and grandfather who are both drug users.
The city is not only seen as a sexual centre evident by the live shows, services and the sinister rapist, but it is also a commercial hub, still attracting tourists. The author refers to the “large red and white Coca Cola sign” at the cross, and the cars “crawling between traffic lights”. This story acts as an unhealthy contrast to the many glowing representations of the city – especially of Sydney. Drug use is apparent, and even prevalent in Kings Cross, but sex, drugs and crime is not all what the city stands for. This text in my opinion has failed to so much as touch on any positive aspects of the city.
Although it has fulfilled its purpose of a good appropriation, the author has intentionally omitted any good qualities Sydney boasts. The Lands Department, Macquarie Place Sydney is a remarkable building that possesses historic beauty amongst a chaotic built-up area. As one of Sydney’s oldest buildings that represents heritage and culture, it is no wonder why Roland Wakelin chose this structural feature of Sydney as the subject matter for his landscape painting. The emphasis on architecture suggests the recognition of the pride and beauty of the city.
There is no evident sign of litter in the artwork, and a significant absence of congestion by cars and other conspicuous high-rises. The poem ‘City Trip’ represents the city in an urgent state. The surreptitious nature of the city is expressed by the impoverished homeless and the desperation of the prostitutes. This is in contrast to Wakelin’s artwork, which presents the city as an exposed, yet rather harmonious place. The dull colours, along with the pale blues, deep reds and charcoals illustrate a quiet and serene quality.
Since the artwork was composed 57 years ago, it is evident much of the city has changed. Many people believe this change is for the worst. However my perception of the city is somewhat in between. I realise that no city is perfect, yet I believe every city has at least sone positive attributes. It is possibly just the number of these that may vary. In my eyes, the concepts of the city differ dramatically. The element of the corporate world does exist in most cities, yet for a person who is educated five days a week in the city, my perception will of course be persuaded by what Sydney has to offer.
I see the city as an energetic and every changing place. It is true crime and immorality exists, and I accept this notion, however my experiences have led me to feel that isolation is not a problem, and anonymity is a positive characteristic. I sense freedom of all categories is extensive, whether it is freedom of sexuality, or the expression of unique style. Personally I could never call the heart of the city ‘home’. I adore the city, especially Sydney, yet I believe the mind needs to take time to relax and unwind – and to me the city is not a tranquil and soothing place.