Michael Goldberg
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A HUMBLE LIFE
1995
This site-specific work was located in the 1830s residence of Alexander Macleay, Colonial Secretary and renowned naturalist and collector.

The project was concerned with the relationship between the Macleay family members and their servants. For the first fifty years of white settlement in New South Wales, the majority of men and women assigned to the workforce were prisoners, many convicted of petty crimes in England and transported to the colony where they served as a ready supply of labour.

The installation was located in the 'underbelly' of the house, the food and beverage storage cellars, where servants would have spent much of their time. The installation intentionally appeared to be a museum preparation area, with a variety of display cases, pallet boxes and artefacts, including Royal Doulton figurines depicting themes such as 'leisure' and 'servitude'.

The title, A Humble Life, was derived from a book written by Eliza Darling, the wife of the then Governor: 'Simple Rules for the Guidance of Persons in Humble Life-more particularly for girls going out to service'. In it she espoused the dictum:

Do everything in its proper time. Keep everything to its proper use. Put everything in its proper place