Blog

exhibition no. 1

We–Gilbert RoeEric Algra and myself-— are having an exhibition at the Atkins Photo Lab gallery  opening October 7th, 2016.  This is a  kick starter exhibition  for the project,  as it were. We each have an individual  section in the gallery for our images and a common space  of shared images. It will be minimal from my perspective–I have the least number of the images in the exhibition-  only 5 images— but I do have a number of cards, or 6×4 prints.

This week  we  have been working out the logistics of the exhibition–what images go in what spaces in the gallery,  and how  we divide the gallery space between the three photographers–and then hanging the exhibition. This is the poster for the exhibition that was created by Eric:

Poster, Mallee Routes

One of my  interests in the Mallee Routes project is to connect our  photography of the Mallee to the digital humanities, since the humanities  have been traditionally  committed to  a non‐vocational, non‐instrumental pursuit of knowledge. Our   photography of the Mallee is this kind of knowledge.  Read More

silos + memory

I noticed  this silo  when I was driving from Lameroo to Karoonda  on my way back to Victor Harbor after the silo photoshoot at Lameroo.  It was  near  a little hamlet or settlement called Kulkami in the southern Mallee.  There was no railway line near the silo. It was late in the afternoon  and the burst of sunlight had gone by the time that I’d  walked around the fenced  area to find  the right position or perspective  to photograph the silo:silo, Kulkami

The silos   dominate the landscape and  they embody the hopes, dreams and memories of the people who settled The Mallee and endeavoured to make it their home.   In the wheatlands, the heartland of rural decline, memory illuminates the social significance, rather than the agricultural or commercial viability, of the farming landscape. Historical memory is located in those places most closely associated with social interaction and a sense of community.  The locus of memory lies more readily in place than in time, in locale than in epoch. Landscape seems the seat of collective memory, rooted as it is in specific sites such as the community hall.

 railyard, Ouyen

The importance of memory  provides a way to  move the project beyond  showing photos on the wall in the traditional art galleries  by positioning  this collaborative project within the <a href="http://www.culturemachine.net/index synthroid medication.php/cm/issue/view/23″>digital humanities. The project is a  part of digital media technology and  it takes place in a computational age,   where technology enables access to the databanks of human knowledge (eg., Trove) from anywhere, disregarding and bypassing the traditional gatekeepers of knowledge in the state, the universities and the market.The project  is  a digital work in so far as it is a  web based artefact — a  website  with a blog   and  an e-book at the end of the project.

The Mallee Routes project  would  question the standard assumption implicit in much traditional humanities research, e.g. close reading, canon formation, periodization, liberal humanism, and literature (rather than  culture or philosophy) being the central  Humanities discipline in the university. For instance, as a  collaborative project Mallee Routes breaks with the traditional idea of singular authorship—eg., the   stable,  individualised, proprietorial, liberal humanist author who claims the legal right to be identified as their authors, and to claim these texts as their property.

 

Peake’s sacred sites

On a  recent day trip along the South Australian section of the Mallee Highway  I stopped off  at Peake to photograph the silo there.  Peake  is a grain receival centre  on  the rail line from Tailem Bend to Ouyen and like so many of  the tiny settlements in the Mallee’s wheatlands it’s presence  in the landscape is signalled by a cluster of cylindrical grain silos and a few modest cottages.

After, the photoshoot, whilst having my lunch on the picnic table in the public garden,   I started  thinking about the traditional split between modernist ‘art photography’ and documentary photography in the 1930s period.The duality of art’ versus ‘documentary’  basically means  documentary as social critique and not initially intended as art within the institutional  art gallery context.  Traces of this  duality  remain today, even though  documentary photography since the 1980s has lost much of its critical function and many documentary photographs were recuperated by the art gallery and sold as art. Documentary  photographs are  deemed have been taken straight from life and are seen as a truthful depiction of the world because it avoided the personal, subjective expression of media such as painting.  The ethos is one of using the camera as an  objective means of recording subjects that documented rather than interpreted. Photographic documents aspired to a ‘straight’ photographic style – direct and unmediated – that described ‘facts’ in a neutral, objective way.

After lunch I  wandered around  the hamlet/town   to take a few snaps in the form of everyday, vernacular snapshots.  One  scene  that I decided to scope was  the local war memorial, which was  at the eastern end of  the  public garden,  just in front of  the silo:

lest we forget, Peake

 

I assumed that though the two world wars  passed quietly in the Mallee,  those living there  felt the need to establish a lasting memorial to those who had gone to fight for King and Country and  to secure allegiances with the Mother Country.  These war memorial sites of  a once British Australia  mourn and honour Australians who have served and died for their country. War memorials, such as this one at Peake,  are the sacred places of settler Australia.

water-towers in the Mallee

Although it is  the grain silos along the old  railway lines that dominate the landscape in the Mallee, the odd-looking,  elevated  water-towers in the various towns also stand out. These water towers suggest that water is scarce in the Mallee, and that it needs to be either piped in from a river,  or drawn from the underground aquifers. Even though the Mallee  lacks water  due to the low rainfall and no  rivers, and is is a dry country prone to drought and dust storms, the development of the Mallee through agriculture were deemed to be the key to economic growth.

If  the Mallee was to be a prosperous and cheerful place to live in, with the small wheatlands settlements being  the nucleus of community life,  then the country  needed water.  The photo below is  an  example of an elevated  water tower  in Karoonda, South Australia. I assume  that water is pumped into the tower  from  some form of  earthen  storage:

Water tower, Karoonda

The initial form  of  water infrastructure  in the Mallee  was  bore water, sourced  from drawing from  the ground water in  the various acquifer systems underlying the Mallee.  The main aquifer system is the vast underground artesian basin in which the water  from  the Grampians filters through the underground coral acquirers as it flows toward the River Murray.  A line of bores powered by windmills was  put down from Underbool to the South Australian border by the Victorian government prior to World War 1,  and the increase in  water supply, along with the rail link  from Tailem Bend to Ouyen,  enabled  the rapid settlement of the Mallee. This largely took the form of small blocks.

The next step in  the  Mallee’s publicly built water infrastructure was the  open,  earthen channel system, known as the Dennying Channel,  was a   stock water supply and irrigation infrastructure  that ran from the Grampians ranges south of Horsham, north beyond Ouyen to Manangatang in the northern Mallee.  It was 17,500 kilometres long and it delivered water to storage dams across the Victorian Mallee. The water was extracted from the Wimmera River  but the channel  was inefficient means of transporting water, due to silt, weeds, drift sand and high levels of seepage and evaporation.  Up to 90 percent of the water extracted from the Wimmera River was lost through evaporation and seepage.
Read More

ruins

The photos in this  post were made whilst  I was  on my way  to photograph the silos at Linga. The location of these ruins is Torrita on the Mallee Highway in Victoria. Normally, Torrita  is a place that you drive through. However, I was early  for the afternoon  photo shoot, so I decided to spend some time wandering around  this  hollowed-out hamlet in the Victorian Mallee.   Was this  photographic ruin gazing– what has  recently become known as ruin porn?

Torrita  is almost a ghost town: all the houses and shops, bar one house, stand empty. The tennis court was in ruins as well. They have lost their functionality and meaning in the present.     It  is no longer a place that could be called home. These kind of traces of the past  signify that an era in Australia’s agriculture modernity has come to a close as well as giving us a sense of historical rupture. These kind of crumbing fragments of architectural ruin expose ourselves to the shock of experience, rather than evoking the heritage industry’s  nostalgia for the past. These kind of ruins in the Mallee are not going to be preserved  or  restored;  or torn down and recycled, to be replaced with something newer and more contemporary.  They are  detritus.   So is Torrita.
ruins, Torrita

Yet these ruins are reminders.  They make us think of the past—the Mallee as a land of promise in the beginning of the 20th century after  the failure of pastoralism in  the 19th century; then the bust in the 1980s with the collapse of sheep, wool and wheat prices.   The  decaying and empty houses in the dying small  towns, which  is one of the most obvious features of the Mallee in South Australia and Victoria, remind us  that the agricultural boom of the 1950s/1960s was over.   A  consequence is  the de-population of the inland countryside that started in the late 20th century around the 1980s with the downturn in the rural economy and the withdrawal of government services.

The ongoing de-population is caused by the restructuring of farm production,   due to the concentration of small farms into  to larger and fewer agricultural properties, an ageing population and  young people moving to the larger regional centres or to the capital cities  to acquire an  education and  find employment.
Read More

Dust storm

In the autumn of 2016 I encountered a dust storm whilst  I  was  camping at Ouyen with Gilbert Roe  for several days in order to make  some large format,  black and white photographs of the silos along the Mallee Highway.  These were  for  the Weltraum exhibition at the Magpie Springs gallery; a group exhibition that was a part of  the small 2016 Shimmer Photographic Biennale. This is South Australia’s only  photographic biennale,  and it is  organised and supported by the Onkaparinga Council. 

After an early morning  silo photoshoot at Galeh  I spent the day travelling along the Mallee Highway from Ouyen to Piangil in the Victorian Mallee.  Piangil is the northern  end point of the Mallee Highway,   and it is just south of the Murray Valley Highway, the River Murray, and Tooleybuc in NSW.  Whilst  returning to the Ouyen camp around lunch time I encountered a dust storm sweeping across the sun drenched agricultural landscape from the south west.

I stopped along the highway and took a number of snaps of the dust storm with my digital camera. This is one of them: dust storm, Victorian Mallee

I didn’t dare use my large format cameras to photograph the dust storm because  the swirling  dust was too great and the wind was far too strong.  The dust storm gave way to rain that night and  to overcast conditions the next day. Normally, it is very bright and sunny in the Mallee. The dry,  flat landscape is sun drenched.  Read More

the first step

The beginnings of the Mallee Routes project emerges from  this post on Gary’s  thoughtfactory website. It shows firstly, that Gary’s  contribution to the project is an outgrowth, or a spin off, from his  silo project on the Mallee Highway; and secondly, that Gary  has connected with two other photographers–Gilbert Roe and Eric Algra–who have been photographing the Mallee independently,  to form a collaborative  project.

The title  of the project–Mallee Routes– was suggested by Eric Algra.  In coming together to work on a collaborative project the three photographers  will be working from  diverse perspectives,  and with different interests and various approaches to their photography.  We reckon that the time frame of the Mallee Routes project is about three years, and that it will primarily concentrate on the South Australian and Victorian Mallee. The NSW Mallee near Lake Mungo is probably outside the project’s boundaries. The  project’s website was constructed  by Chris Dearden,  whilst  the website’s blog is about the process of the project.  The blog  may, or may not, become a co-operative one.

One notable aspect of the Mallee in the Murray-Darling Basin is that, apart from the various national parks,  it primarily consists  of agricultural landscapes, small towns,  and    minimal, scrappy native vegetation along the side of the roads.

Mallee Scrub

I find photographing the Mallee scrub difficult synthroid 25 mcg. This scoping attempt, with a digital camera,  was made whilst I was travelling on the Kulkami Rd between Lameroo and Karoonda after a silo photoshoot at Lameroo. The location of this scrub was around Kulkami near the Marama turnoff, which is approximately half way between  the Lameroo and Karoonda townships in South Australia.  Read More