Imagine that you’re snared within a phantasmagorical wonderland of dazzling, flashing, coloured lights, bouncing off a multitude of graphically stylised mirrors and highly-polished chrome, glass and faux marble surfaces. An intoxicating fusion of aromas – syrupy sweet mingled with pungent zests – activates your taste buds. ‘Rock Around the Clock’ erupts from the jukebox, challenging the soda fountain’s rhythmic whoosh and gurgle of liquid under pressure. The clinking and scraping of metal against glass is repetitive, but dim. Discordant singing, laughter, and the chatter of gossip emanates from around tabled wooden booths. Self-indulgent gratification intensifies: another round of American-style soda drinks, milkshakes and ice cream sundaes is ordered.
Served in sparkling, sensually stylised metal containers or see-through soda drink glass goblets and ice cream sundae dishes designed to caress both sight and touch, these grails were the most fundamental, tangible, baseline-elements of the overall carnival of illusion, provocatively drawing attention to their contents – a seduction of contrasting colours, textures and fluid forms. This paper will discuss the aesthetics of café, milk bar and soda/sundae parlour ware and its stimulus to food and drink consumption within the context of the overall fantasy of these food-catering businesses.
Documentary photographer, Effy Alexakis, and historian, Leonard Janiszewski, have been researching the Greek-Australian historical and contemporary presence in both Australia and Greece since 1982. Their project and archives, In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians, encompasses visual, oral and literary material and is based at Macquarie University, Sydney. Their archive is recognised as one of the most significant collections in the country on Greek-Australians.
Various national and international touring exhibitions, three major books, well over 250 book chapters, articles, conference papers, and three film documentaries have been produced. Of their exhibitions, the most pronounced have been ‘In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians’ and ‘Selling and American Dream: Australia’s Greek Café’. The former was created in partnership with the State Library of NSW and toured throughout Australia as well as Athens and Thessaloniki in Greece. The latter opened at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra, in 2008, and is still touring.
Alexakis’ photographs are held in both public and private collections in Australia – most significantly in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, and the State Library of NSW, Sydney. She has been ranked as one of Australia’s leading portrait photographers. In 2001 Janiszewski was awarded the New South Wales History Fellowship to research a history of the ‘Greek café’. Both are Research Fellows with the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University.