Living in Australia can feel intensely remote… even in the very centre of Sydney, the largest city in this vast land mass called the Australian continent. Often you can find yourself completely alone walking down a inner city street after midnight…
It can sometimes feel like you are the only person alive on this planet after a nuclear holocaust. Like the night of what has become to be known as 9/11…
I remember my brother had rung me to tell me that they were bombing New York…The Trade Towers he said “were being bombed, there was smoke and fire everywhere” He had erroneously deduced that was what was happening…most people couldn’t comprehend the nature of what had occurred.
I was at a friend’s place with no TV and my first reaction was to gather everyone I knew together to go to my place and find out the news…We drove wildly along King Street in Newtown that evening, it was dark and cold and there wasn’t a soul about…When we turned on the TV… just in time to see the second tower collapsing… we all just sat together in silence…
Never in my life had I felt so distant…so far away from the rest of the world in their disbelief and grief…
I think that the deeper truth about trying to understand this feeling of isolation that living in Australia brings, is that it reflects the concept of the first British “invaders”… that this continent was “Terra Nullius” or indeed, “nobody’s land”.
That idea, which has been subtly imbued into the national psyche with a complete denial of the ancient and thriving Aboriginal society and culture that has continually inhabited the continent, has been insidiously assimilated into our minds. That this land neither belongs to its original people or the subsequent waves of migrants hitting its shores has been inculcated into the Australian identity.
And if we do believe this? Then who in fact does “own” Australia?
I have been on a lifetime journey to try and find out.
My earliest memories of growing up were of being sunburnt to a crisp and spending as much time on the beach as I possibly could. It is a fairly typical scenario that so many Australians aspire to, but one that in reality, few have access to. For those that do, they seem to cling to the edges of this continent like it is a life raft in a roiling ocean.
It is of course obvious that the original people of Australia, my Aboriginal friends, must be acknowledged as the sovereign and rightful owners of the land. Their community orientation and family awareness has lent much to the invasion of their land as they have always been willing to share what they have had and ask little in return. While they have roots in this country that are millennia old and have an understanding of this country that far outstrips any of the newly arrived recent immigrants their positions in law are surprisingly similar to one another.
That is few people actually legally own this country. In fact even all the homeowners, pastoralists and developers who claim a stake in this land have no authority to call it their own because the reality is anything that lies under their holdings that has minerals, oil or gold to name a few belongs to the “Crown”. In other words the Australian government whose Constitutional Head of State is in fact the reigning British Monarch have mineral rights over everyone in Australia. You can find out more about it here
So there is a barrier between Australia and its common people. Its an invisible fence that keep us from getting deeply involved with the land, it is anathema to the original and sovereign tribal owners and it keeps us distant and isolated from the very country we dwell in.
In my latest body of work I am exploring the concept of barriers and isolation by exploring industrial and corporate areas out of working hours. AFTER HOURS is a loose look at how we are barricaded out of so many areas and conversely how we are fenced in psychologically as a result. You can have a look at the developing body of work here of which todays photo is a part.