The walls of the world, Pigment print, 127cm x 127cm, 2012
I am fascinated in the broadest sense by landscapes like the Pilbara, including my ignorance and insensitivity to them. I’m not ‘in the Pilbara’ in the way that scientists collect and identify its objects. Rather I am collecting what can’t be seen; evidence of my uncertainty, my interaction, my wanderings and pondering.
But what do I really know of this far away place? Very little except that it is remote and ancient, a place of extremes, both climate and distance, and cultural dislocation. What do I discover about my settler culture, my artistic presumptions, my myths and prejudices? What do I suspect I am doing, and what am I responsible for?
I’m drawn to its boundaries and edges; between solid and liquid, weight and weightlessness, hot and cool, dry and wet, between ourselves and the rest of the world, and that line of habitation that encrusts, indeed misrepresents our nation.
For the Pilbara carries a stain or residue that is at the heart of its troubled relationship with urban Australia. The problem is how we index, moralise and politicise land use, rather than appropriating or projecting country as an aesthetic object. ‘History’ pales against ‘three and a half billion years on the surface of the earth’. The terrain shifts while the ground remains the same.
I would hope to make pictures that acknowledge this struggle and dislocation, that point to what is possible or unlikely, and mimic a more general theory of habitation; including the myths I incite, the paving I import, and the gate keeping I impose. There is also the fascination with the unanswered questions and what it means to become entangled in their complexity and construction. Not only the conflicts and contradictions but the fact that I am on stolen land, not my country, and what it means to acknowledge and engage with such strangeness ‘in your own back yard’.
I see only what I know. I respect only what I understand. What I need is an ethics for decolonisation. I have a lot of ground to recover.