The three exhibitions that I have been involved in —Weltraum, Abstractions x5 and Mallee Routes— are over.
Tomorrow morning I drive to Mildura via the Mallee Highway to link up with Judith Crispin and friends who are travelling from Sydney to Lajamanu in the North Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory of Australia. It will take us approximately 3 days to get to Lajamanu via Alice Springs from Mildura.We will travel on the Goyder Highway to Port Augusta, and then on the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs. I haven’t been on the Woomera –Alice Springs section of the Stuart Highway before, so this is new terrain for me.
In Alice Springs we will meet up with other photographers–Juno Gemes and Helga Leunig–and a poet–Dave Musgrave, who runs Puncher and Wattmann, an independent Australian publishing house that publishes Australian poetry and literary fiction. The third day is then spent traveling in two 4 wheel drive vehicles on the Tanami Road to the turnoff to Lajamanu, then along the Lajamanu track to the community based on the eastern side of Hooker Creek. There is some background on Lajamanu here and here.
on the road
We are going to see the Milpirri Festival, which is presented by the Warlpiri people at Lajamanu in association with the Tracks Dance Company. For one night only, every two years, Milpirri brings the whole Lajamanu community together in a theatrical performance in Lajamanu itself. Milpirri began in 2005 and it is based upon a twenty-seven-year relationship between Tracks Dance Company and Lajamanu community that began in 1988.
Milpirri challenges the narrative of the Australian nation state that Indigenous societies embrace modernity (‘Close the Gap’) by leaving their homelands to gainfully ‘participate’ in the nation. In this narrative the ‘remote’ is increasingly figured as disadvantageous, as well as unhealthy, for sustainable and productive lives to take shape. The conservatives say that these remote communities need to be, and should be, shut down. The conservative’s default position is assimilation. Continue Reading…
One of the interesting movements is the emerging connections between the contemporary arts and sciences around climate change driven by human activity. These emerging connections stand in opposition to “denialism,” a highly ideological formation dedicated to defending deregulated economic growth and the protection of the entrenched power of the fossil fuel corporations that made Australia into a modern industrial capitalist society in the second part of the 20th century. This is the assertion of naked political power for short-term self-interest.
A local example of the emerging connections is the upcoming Dire exhibition at the South Coast Regional Art Centre (Old Goolwa Police Station), which is part of the Alexandrina Council’s Just Add Water 2016 festival. It is entitled Dire because our western civilisation during the Anthropocene is still unable to live within its ecological limits; in spite of the new climate reality and Australia being identified as one of the developed countries most at risk from the adverse impacts of climate change.
This is an out take from an eco-photoshoot in the Coorong, in South Australia, for the Dire exhibition:
In southern Australia the reduced rainfall scenario isn’t good news for the ecological health of the rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin, whilst the coastal cities and towns on both the eastern and southern seaboard face threats from the rising sea levels. What is happening to the ecological health of the Coorong from the reduced environmental flows gives rise to feeling blue—- depression, sadness, melancholy–associated with a sense of deep time and climate crisis.
Climate change is deeply disturbing and very hard to live with. We know and understand the implications of the science but we continue living–habitus— as we have been—an emotional denialism with its resistance to change. So we continue to live in parallel worlds. We think in one way and live in another. Continue Reading…
Whilst I am travelling around, and camping in, selected locations in South Australia and Victoria to photograph the silos for the silo project, I am slowly starting to broaden out to photograph the landscape that the silos are situated in along with the nineteenth century regional architecture . This is a photography of “what-has-been”, a tracing of some past moment as it were, but one that has an ongoing presence in the present, is part of an attempt to regain a historical understanding of the region.
I have been looking at the Geoff Wilson’s South Australian landscapes as well as Eric Algra’s Postcards from Forgotten Places and Postcards in Colour in the context of my South Australian regional landscape portfolio. Wilson and Algra have explored South Australia before me and they have been exploring locations along the roads that I’m starting to travel on. The work they have done acts as signposts in a region that is largely unknown to me. Their digital imaging are historical markers in an image culture that is dominated by the mass media whose feedback loop constitutes a serious challenge to historical consciousness and critical thinking.
Algra, for instance, has extensively explored
the Mallee whilst on his trips
between Melbourne and Adelaide and his crisscrossing the South Australian Mallee
. His keen eye for what is significant for people living in the Mallee, and his inputs into South Australia’s visual culture, highlights the richness of photography’s contribution to the way we see the world. Algra’s vernacular photography is not part of the academic writing and its conversation about photography in Australia because that writing is still primarily a narrative of photography’s aesthetic aspirations
and the great names of the photographic canon. In Australia, like the United States, photography entered through art history and so photographs were studied as aesthetic objects using formalist methods.
One of the side trips on the Mallee Highway silo photoshoot in Victoria was to look for, and scope, edgelands around Ouyen to continue part two of the project. I did this on the last day when it was bright and sunny and of no use to me for taking photos of silos with a large format camera. Bright and sunny is normal in the Victorian Mallee, with overcast days being the exception. From my travelling around I could see that the Mallee is a specialist grain growing areas diversifying from livestock production (sometime in the 1980s).
I spend the Wednesday morning driving around the boundaries of the town and I stumbled on this behind the golf course just over a kilometre form the centre of town:
felled trees, Ouyen
It wasn’t private land so I wandered around to have a look. The trees were being felled so that large basin could be dug out. I kept on walking around to discover why a basin here. A sign lying on the side of the road said that this basin that was under construction was for a man made recreational lake. It’s ambitious as it 700 metres long by 200 metres wide, with a depth of five metres when full, and it will cover about 14 hectares. Continue Reading…
After attending the Centre of Culture, Land and Sea’s informative workshop at Meningie in South Australia. I used the opportunity to explore around Lake Albert and the Narrung Peninsula with its legacy of settler agriculture before driving on down to Salt Creek for a photoshoot for the Edgelands project.
Lake Albert, along with Lake Alexandrina, is a part of the Lower Lakes of the River Murray, and is adjacent to the northern lagoon’s eco-system of the Coorong. Being at the bottom end of the highly engineered River Murray, Lake Albert suffers from the river’s minimal environmental flows. Those at the terminus of the River Murray receive what is left over after consumptive use in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Though the Barrages at Goolwa were constructed to maintain the Lakes as freshwater systems at a constant water depth, the Lakes/Coorong region is at the end of a major river systems, which means that this region is highly sensitive to changes in freshwater flows. Despite the Basin Plan, which has addressed the overallocation of water from the Basin’s rivers by irrigated agriculture, not enough fresh water currently flows into Lake Albert to flush the lake out, so it is salty, and all the contaminants from the upper part of the river end up in Lake Albert.
Lake Albert, South Australia
The irrigators around Lake Albert suffered from a lack of water during the Millennium Drought (from 2002- 2010)—-when Lake Albert was closed off from natural river flows by a Government constructed band at the entrance top the Lake. Exposure and oxidation of acid sulfate soils due to falling water levels from 2007-2009 in the Lower River Murray and Lower Lakes also resulted in acidification of soils, lake and ground water. The low water levels on Lake Albert resulted in many of the dairy farmers, who had relied on pumped water from Lake Albert, being forced to sell their cattle and even abandon their dairy farms. Continue Reading…