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By Molly Sammon – Perth, Australia

| Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The ever-popular land and power struggle between the Australian Indigenous Aborigines and the western immigrants who built Perth, Australia’s impressive skyline make the world’s most isolated western city a perfect location for unrestricted creativity in the arts.

As the native customs meet the western way of life, modern art has flourished and defined Perth as a unique town.

The people here make themselves into their own work of art, going for the next shocking hairstyle and fashion trend to put themselves on display. It seems almost everyone in Perth has either blue hair, a facial piercing, something straight off the Marc Jacobs runway or all of the above.

In an effort to “do as the Perthians do,” and much to the horror of my brothers, I got my nose pierced last week. It’s a small symbol of my effort to integrate into the culture here, but I will not be sporting this look when I return to South Bend in the fall.

In addition to my new facial piercing, my first month abroad in Australia brings other opportunities and adventures.

For example, I get to take great advantage of Perth’s International Arts Festival.

Our campus is lined with projection screens, where films from all over the world are shown. The campus is also covered in sculptures from Australian and Aboriginal artists, and musicians, including Atlanta-native Ludacris, give frequent concerts all over the city.

We were the only ones in the audience who knew the words to Ludacris’ songs.

Cottesloe Beach, one of the most popular spots in the greater Perth area, is characterized by its beautiful mix of clear blue Indian Ocean water, white sand and Victorian architecture.

This weekend, huge sculptures dug into the sand as part of the international arts festival. Though I have only had three weeks here in Perth, this modern art display seems quintessentially Western Australian, taking that which is naturally beautiful — the beach — and mixing it with modern works of art to make the art stand out even more.

It’s the same foundation they used to build the city itself, taking the natural — the land the indigenous people claimed — and mixing it with modern architecture to create something unbelievably unique.

The Western Australian Museum’s Publications Department, where I will be interning while in Australia, represents this common theme of taking the old and making it new:

I work in a refurbished jail cell.

There is a 4 foot tall wooden door still held together by hinges from the convict-era of Australian history. The room is air-conditioned by one small window, but I’m too short to look out or feel the breeze it lets in. It is a torture comparative to what real prisoners in Australia’s early days faced in the perpetual 100 degree heat, which we haven’t had a break from yet.

This room sheds new light on the common metaphor that the office is a jail cell or prison.

The Western Australian Museum is connected to all of the other museums in the area by neon-painted sidewalks with cursive poetry written on the pathways connecting them to each other.

From blue-haired natives to sculptures in the sand to working in a refurbished jail cell, I’ve gained an appreciation for the unconventional art here in Perth, which is unparalleled by any other place I have been.