Extravagance puts me immediately into a moral argument with myself because I have a Puritan self and also an indulgent, voluptuary self so there’s an immediate conflict about whether or not extravagance is a good thing or a bad thing.

Extravagance is a waste if your definition is really strict utilitarian definition. In a sense, that’s extravagance, but to me, that’s good extravagance because it adds beauty. Whereas bad extravagance is really about status.

A personal extravagnce for me is the high ritual of the Anglican mass at Christ Church Saint Laurence in Redfern that carries with it a sense of ancientness. I feel deeply connected back to the sort of pagan and voodoo background of humanity, a sense of deep connection through time, a transcendent effect. When the choir, they sing the psalm and they sing in this 13th Century plainsong, the creeds and things. You can see them becoming their angel-selves and everyone — there’s a sense that ordinary, pathetic, flawed humanity does raise itself up a few chakras, to mix a religious metaphor, and become its better self. That sort of yearning is almost visible. I find that beautiful.

The idea of discipline and necessity is important. Not just to survival but to beauty. The Sydney terraces are an example. One of the things I love most about Sydney is the fact that the really rich people live in these really ridiculously small houses. Which are in one sense deprived of light, and space, and the sort of liberty of doing whatever you like in your own backyard. But the payoff of that, of course, is the creation of genuine streets, and genuine neighborhoods.


From cigarette butts, traffic and human sweat and coffee to incense, beeswax, vellum and scholarship.


Elizabeth Farrelly