Prior to the Wentworth photocamp on the Darling River I spent some time in the Victorian Wimmera thinking about, and scoping for, a series of images that I planned to call the Yarriambiack suite. Would this be a goer?
The trip involved a lot of travelling. I went to Wentworth via the Dukes Highway and the Victorian Wimmera (Murtoa, Donald, Lake Boga and Swan Hill) and I returned to Encounter Bay via the Goyder Highway, Morgan and the South Australia Mallee.
I set up the tent for the 4 days I camped at Wentworth, and swagged the rest of the time that I was on the road. The stopovers at Murtoa, Donald, and Swan Reach were only over-night stays.
Whilst I was driving around the Victorian Wimmera I thought that a Yarriambiack suite would work for the Mallee Spaces on a back wall in the central gallery of the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery for the upcoming exhibition in December. The suite would be a series of photos of the Yarriambiack region –say a series of 4-5 images — that would represent different aspects of the different aspects of the spatial dimension of the Victorian Wimmera.
So I spent a day or so driving around the Wimmera and I ended up concentrating on scoping the ephemeral Yarriambiack Creek. I was looking for places where there was no water in the creek, as I already had some photos of water in the creek near Jung from a previous trip.
I am planning to go on a photocamp at Wentworth and the lower Darling River next Thursday (25th of April) for the Mallee Routes project. I want to travel slowly to Wentworth as I need to spend time in the Wimmera Mallee region, retracing my steps from an earlier exploration. I will probably stay over night at Murtoa or Donald before going onto Wentworth.
My plan in the Wimmera is very dependant on the weather, but I hope to photo the Yarriambiak Creek near Murtoa, the silos in the landscape at Jung in the early morning; then some old machinery at Donald in the afternoon. These sites had been previously scoped when I made a detour on the trip to Melbourne.
The Wentworth photocamp will allow me to explore the lower Darling River, to see if I can make any photos for my climate change contribution to the unknown futures section of the upcoming 2019 exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional gallery.
The photography in the forthcoming Mallee Routes exhibition in late 2019 will now be spread across the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery’s three galleries, namely, the small Jean Symonds Gallery, the large Main Gallery and the small Sculpture Court gallery. These three galleries are linked and this gives the exhibition a unity. The overall exhibition is organised in terms of past (in the Jean Symonds Gallery), present (in the Main Gallery) and future (in the Sculpture Court gallery.) So the 2019 exhibition will be more conceptual orientated than the 2018 exhibition at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery.
The photography in the Sculpture Court emerges from an exploratory nomadic roaming about, and it will be more experimental in content and presentation than the photography in the other two galleries. It will explore themes such as climate change, water, C roads and salt. These themes are part of the specific and complex historical quality of our present, its contemporaneity. It is experimental in that the photography is no longer subservient to the debilitating effects of cliches about the Mallee or drought; it is one that endeavours to adapt the critical potential of the arts to both the new global /digital situation today and the problems that those in the Mallee will face. Since the work is a looking towards unknown futures, the photography necessarily crosses the bounds of common sense to make relations and connections within possibilities not already given in the present. The question that is posed is: how can photography explore this futurity in relation to the Mallee?
The theme that I will personally start to explore is the future effects of climate change in the Mallee based on the CSIRO’s State of the Climate 2018 report, which is the latest biennial snapshot of climate change in Australia. This report says that climate change superimposed on natural variability will continue in the decades ahead. Australia, as a result, will experience more hot days with decreases in rainfall across southern Australia with more time in drought. Water is going to become even more critical so will the health of the Murray-Darling Basin’s rivers and the sustainability of the land. It will be difficult to move beyond the cliches of photojournalism and the myths of Australian history.
The photographic explorations of the different themes can be understood as an experimental crossing of borders to explore the ‘same’ conflictual reality and unknown futures in diverse ways. This involves new ways of thinking, seeing, talking, as these arise from the particular circumstances of the contemporary, which contracts the future into the present: the contemporary is a disavowal of the futurity of the present. This photography about the Mallee’s unknown futures is based on the artist as experimenter or cartographer, working in the zones of the contemporary world where processes may go off in unforeseen directions or function in unregulated and different ways. Read More
I am off to Melbourne to attend the Melbourne Art Book Fair 2019 at the NGV and to see what is happening in the world of Photobooks. I plan to make a detour via the Wimmera Mallee as the weather forecast is for overcast cloud cover and cool conditions around the Horsham region. It is forecasted to be hot and sunny on the return leg to Adelaide, which is not good conditions for my large format photography.
I am using this quick detour to pickup the Mallee Routes project as this has been on the back burner over the long, dry hot summer months in 2018-19. I haven’t made any road trips for the project since spring of 2018, nor have I been on any photo camps since those in 2018 at Lake Boga in Victoria and Balranald in NSW in 2018. I need to reconnect with the project after working on Reconnections: Walking Wellington and the coastal macro photography whilst on the daily poodlewalks.
I plan to travel on the B240 to St Arnaud, camping overnight in the Horsham area–probably staying over night at Lake Marma at Murtoa, then spending the next day moving around the Buloke region—Minyip, Donald, Charlton, Wycheproof, and Birchip in the Loddon Mallee before spending the night at Foletti Park in Donald. There is no specific location or subject matter that I have in mind on this minor detour; it is more reconnecting with the project after a 6 month break and then seeing what eventuates. Hopefully the forecast for cloudy weather holds for the detour to Melbourne. Read More
As a result of a recent meeting in November between Fulvia Mantelli, the new director of the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, myself and Gilbert Roe the date of the next Mallee Routes exhibition in February 2019 in the Jean Sims Gallery has been cancelled. The exhibition has been shifted to 17 December 2019 to the 19th January 202o. It is now in the the main gallery plus the Jean Sims Gallery gallery (with the possibility of also using the Vicki Nottage Sculpture Court). That is a lot of exhibition space.
I am happy with the shift as we now have increased space and more time. This allows me to reconstruct the Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2017 photobook that had been put on hold to prepare for the February 2019 exhibition. I also have time to make extra road trips in the autumn and winter of 2019— I will definitely be returning to Lake Boga and Balranald in 2019 for more photo camps to continue digging beneath the Mallee’s surface.
The large space provided by the main gallery plus the side galleries means that the project has been given greater acceptance and credibility by the curator. This provides us with an opportunity to substantially expand on the work that we exhibited at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery. The Read More
During my solo photo camp at Balranald in NSW in the spring of 2018 I started to concentrate on photographing the interiors of deserted buildings. One reason for the shift was that I was becoming interested in the interiors of these silent buildings in themselves. A second reason was that the interiors of the various buildings at the Yanga Woolshed National Park were publicly accessible. A third reason was to bring the subject matter into my understanding of the tension between the large format photography of the Mallee as trace (document) and as picture (artwork).
What had intrigued me on the previous road trip to Balranald was how the decayed interiors had the traces of events that occurred in the past, and that these ones hold more memories. The straightforward presentation of the interiors allows the viewer to actively interpret them in the present as metaphors, or the interiors being psychologically loaded, or as the past intruding on the present in a meaningful way.
This is a photography after the event –a photographing of the traces of pastoralism before this particular history of the Mallee was erased. This kind of late photography in the era of television, newer technologies and the mediascape of a commodity culture, turns up late, wanders through the places where things have happened, and starts to explore the effects of the activity of a world gone. Though people are absent in this still photography of traces, fragments, empty buildings of an increasingly forgotten history, there is a lot of remnants of human activity in the detritus left behind. Read More
On my solo photocamp at Balranald I photographed in and around the Yanga Station including the Woolshed and the homestead. Yanga Station, as is well known, was one of the Riverina’s most productive, freehold pastoral stations, and it is now located in the Yanga National Park near the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park. Access to the park away from the wool facilities and homestead was not possible as all the gates were locked. The best that could be recommended by the ranger was to go along the public road towards Woolpress Bend and to stop when I found a suitable place off the road to look at the vegetation.
The Yanga Woolshed was built in the late 1800s along with the various outbuildings, including sleeping quarters and communal dining room. The shed was deliberately built on the bank of the Murrumbidgee River so wool bales from the store could be loaded directly into paddle-steamers for transport to Echuca. The final shearing took place around 2005 during the Millennial Drought. The woolshed now stands as a silent reminder of rural Australia’s pastoral past. This is the old wool press in the Yanga Woolshed.
I was only dipping lightly into this Riverina pastoral world when compared to the work of Andrew Chapman, who made a book about the woodsheds, the shearers, the roustabouts, the dogs etc in 2011. My dipping in was to just gain some sense of the historical layers in the Mallee before pastoralism became overlaid with dryland agriculture and the wheat belt. This is the transition from Australia being insular socio-economic outpost of Britain to becoming a sovereign nation-state operating in a global grain market. This transition profoundly altered the production, supply, price and quality of flour-based staples to the Australian and international markets. Read More
I leave for another road trip to Balranald early Tuesday (11th September) morning. I need to build up some large format images for the forthcoming collaborative Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery early in 2019. I just don’t have enough work for this last collaborative exhibition, and I need to make the pictures before it becomes too hot to photograph in the northern Mallee. I plan to camp at Balranald, as I did in early August, so that I can easily access and concentrate on photographing in and around the Yanga Woolshed as well as along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in Balranald itself.
I scoped the woolshed whilst I was on the August road trip, and after looking at the converted digital images on the computer, I plan to do more large format black and white photography:
I converted the scoping images on the computer screen from colour to black and white because the interior of the woolshed does suit black and white. It is also appropriate–more appropriate than the digital colour images I made, which tended to make the woolshed look too touristy. Woodsheds, similar to this one, would have been photographed in black and white in the early 20th century, so the blackk and white is reference point to the pastoral history. Read More
I am currently working on making a second limited edition photobook of the Mallee Routes project. Its working title is Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2017. It basically consists of the prints of the 35mm and digital images that I made whilst I was scoping for the film images for the collaborative Mallee Routes exhibition at the Atkins Photo Lab in 2016. These 6×4 prints formed part of that exhibition. Since the exhibition, the prints have been sitting in a neglected pile in the corner of the Encounter Studio office for nigh on two years.
It was time something was done with them. Hence the idea of a limited edition book that would include a few 35mm black and white images of the South Australia Mallee that I made in the 1980s. It would have a small introduction. This is the cover image of the proposed book:
The book is to be similar in form to the Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2018 that I did to include in the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery in 2018. This too was constructed from scoping images for the large format photos shown in the exhibition, and it was, by and large dominated to libraries in South Australian and Victoria. It is what people would call an unsustainable business model, but it is a step to placing the work outside the confines of the white cube art gallery and the politics of the art market. Read More
The winter photocamp at Balranald with Gilbert Roe consisted of photographing on the property of John and Marita Standen’s Rosenhoe farm, which is on the Wakool River, and scoping the area around Balranald itself, which is is located in Mutthi Mutthi traditional country. I would have liked to extend the photocamp to do more exploring and some large format photography, but I had to return to Adelaide to prepare for the Collaboration: Interrogating Melbourne’s changing urban landscape exhibition with Stuart Murdoch at Atkins Photo Lab for the SALA Festival.
On my last day at Balranald I explored the Yanga Woolshed and homestead along with the outlying buildings of the Yanga pastoral station within the Yanga National Park. This Park is now part of the larger Murrumbidgee Valley National Park. The station, which was owned by the Black family since 1919, abutted the Murrumbidgee River, was built in the 1830s by William Wentworth and it was operational until the first decade of the 21st century. It is now a tourist site. I was the only tourist there that day, and the buildings, including the homestead, are slowly becoming ruins from neglect. The exception is the woolshed.
It was stepping back into the history of the Mallee –well a snap shot of the pastoral history which has largely been forgotten. I presume that after around 180 years of grazing, the land was run down and the native plants were sparse. Read More