Tag Archives: australia

Dear Editor

NOTE: This is a letter to the editor at Australian newspaper the The Age in response to this this editorial piece asking for Julia Gillard to step aside so that Australians can discuss policy issues again. Nothing to do with the media right.  It is printed below without permission, but its great, so read it. 

Dear editor,

The hypocrisy and arrogance of this masthead in calling for the resignation of Julia Gillard “so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again” is absolutely breathtaking. I don’t even feel that it’s necessary to talk in detail about my reasons for such a reaction, as you need only look to your own implicit and complicit involvement in the tear-down of this government on a basis that has nothing to do with “policy” and “democracy”, via an endless and frequently baseless obsession with the leadership issue. I am disgusted to hear this view espoused by a newspaper that I once considered reflective of liberal democratic Australian views. Your official editorial stance at this late hour will prove to most Australians of a reasonable intellect the exact nature of your betrayal of the very principles that you claim to stand for. This is nothing but a cynical attempt to distance yourselves from your own role in crushing any ability of this government to talk about policy, as it has actually been doing for the last 3 years, despite every news outlet’s claim to the contrary.

I am an intelligent, educated, rational and considered individual with complex views on the full range of policy addressed by this current administration. I have very good reason to disagree with a lot of decisions and details about policies and legislation that this government has endorsed, but almost never have I formed the opinion that Julia Gillard has not been selling her policies and explaining her position. I resent and refute your claim to represent the views of Australians that this government has ”struggled to explain and justify its policies to voters, and to remind them of its achievements”. I am intricately aware of their achievements, in spite of The Age’s lack of ability to report on them in any level of detail. They may not be achievements that enjoy a majority poll favour, but since when has poll favour determined policy achievement? You insult my intelligence over and over again. It is for these reasons that Australians like me feel that it is not political leadership for which we are underrepresented, but indeed journalistic leadership that is found grossly wanting in this current era of Australian politics. We may be a minority, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t count, and we are the kind of minority that looks to your newspaper for leadership in these matters.

Australians are now finding alternative ways of informing themselves about the actual meaning of policy decisions as they relate to our lives, and are in fact more and more disillusioned as to the Australian mainstream media’s ability to investigate such meaning. Your newspaper, by virtue of this very editorial article has a duty to Australians to engage our politicians in policy debate and in so doing, strengthen our democracy. Your call for Julia Gillard to stand aside in light of her failure to maintain the strength of our democracy proves to me your own abject failure in this regard, and as a long time reader, I feel deeply ashamed and betrayed. Average Australians do not have the privilege of a microphone to put in front of our leaders, and are not therefore able to hold them to account. You should treat that privilege as what it is, a privilege, and not a right to repeat the current narratives of the press gallery and other media outlets. I would ask that you resume your own self-professed duties in this regard, and prove that you have editorial integrity when claiming to be interested in the strength of the Australian democracy.

Regards,
Matthew Ellis

 

When I Draw–

“Y’know the real world, this so called real world is just something you put up with like everybody else.  I’m in my element when I’m a little bit out of this world – I’m on the beam.  Because when I’m falling, I’m doing all right: When I’m slipping, I say, “Hey this is interesting!”  It’s when I’m standing upright, that bothers me: I’m not doing so good.”  Willem de Kooning.

For the last year I’ve worked at Factory 7 with dim lights (nearly always at night), metallic dust, and a large dirty desk that takes the brunt of my drawing.  I work with dry and dusty pencils, charcoal and dense pigment pastels, always on paper.

In my dark corner, I’ve drawn bodies, women, angels, saints, friends and places, faces, and forces. I draw these things to understand my body, the bodies of others – real and unreal – and to trace the experiences of my physical, intellectual and emotional self. I draw to understand old marks I’ve made, how my hand moves and hits paper, and to feel how the marks and paper hit back in whatever way they can. I guess I draw to get better at drawing.

Factory 7
Factory 7
Factory 7
Factory 7

I am most interested in making marks when I am as wary as possible of the eye, the hand and the paper, even when – or especially when – I’m not in control of them. The easiest way to be aware of something is to feel it change, the more violently the better. To become aware of your eye, you blind it, your hand – you hurt it, the whiteness of your paper – you dirty it.

I want to draw like being in a car crash.

The relationship between your eyes and hands is the easiest to disrupt. When drawing blindfolded, the hand is increasingly sensitive to movement and impact, and even the mind’s eye can be confused if you’re slipping. This is the best way to draw unlike your self, which is an important part of drawing as your self. I think that short fits of hysteria have the same effect and can be practiced, like New Zealand artist Max Gimblett who stomps the ground and bellows like a madman, or there’s De Kooning, who supposedly charged at his canvas from across the room with his loaded brush in hand. I find music pumped into my ears helps me arrive there too. The effects of all these can be an extended sense of openness, or aggressive bursts of physical and emotional energy that smash pigment deep into the paper. It feels incredibly direct.

 

When I draw,

“I’m not pure; I’m not an abstractionist completely. There has to be a history behind the thought.”  Cy Twombly.

To consider technique, my newer drawings are really about how my hands and body interact with the drawing surface. Rebecca Horn’s Pencil Mask is a striking example of this, and is a type of practice often called performance drawing. I think the Pencil Mask and other performance drawings tend to explore drawing instruments as prosthetics of the body, recording the body as directly as possible: Yves Klein’s blue body paintings are dramatic examples, where the drawing instrument is the naked body. In the end, I’m not artistically interested in sharing the performance of my drawing (infact, oppositely, I prefer to keep this ambiguous), so I think I deviate from Horn & Klein. Instead I’m very interested in collecting as many ways as possible of making marks, especially ones that undermine the well-practiced control of the hand on paper. Cy Twombly has become an important influence in this way. My drawings in the Collisions/Alchemy and Nova sets are good examples of this exploration, the first set uses ambidextrous and intentionally deformed and uncoordinated hand gestures, twisting the way I might hold the pastel, and contorting my hands and body to force cramped and shivering lines; drawings in Nova are more desperate as they crush the pigment pastels to pieces right on the paper, and smashing my hands and fists into the coloured dust, I smear it heavily into the paper with hugely exaggerated and unnecessary force.

Colliding marks. http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Alchemy
Colliding marks. http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Alchemy
Green Bruising - Nova http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Nova
Green Bruising – Nova http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Nova

 

“I’ll take you where nobody knows you–”

Recently I’ve drawn with Fenina Acance and Jaslyne Gan. Apart from the joy, challenge, and intrigue of working alongside other drawers drawing (‘art is by the alone’), for me it’s an important practice in developing new mark-making strategies. The marks I was making before the collaborative jams were (maybe too conservatively) sitting between what I saw in Fenina’s sharp, shifting scratches and Jaslyne’s dancing, ethereal compositions.  So we all decided we should do some shared drawings, made simultaneously or swapped part-way.

At first most of them looked like my drawings, but they have changed, and they’re now the drawings that I find most intriguing. Maybe it’s because I could never have done them myself, or because of their uncanny familiarity. I find them incredible sources of inspiration and fascination, like looking in a mirror and not recognising something about myself. When I’m slipping, I say, ‘Hey this is interesting!’

Fenina Acance & Byron Kinnaird. 2013. Untitled.
Fenina Acance & Byron Kinnaird. 2013. Untitled.
Jaslyne Gan & Byron Kinnaird. 2013, Untitled/Strangers
Jaslyne Gan & Byron Kinnaird. 2013, Untitled/Strangers

Collaborating is also a terrific way of dispelling any preciousness for your drawings (‘kill your darlings’) and more importantly, learning to rework existing unsatisfying drawings, even if you ruin them. I’m terrible at working through drawings that I’m not feeling good about (and have no idea how to rescue), so ruining someone else’s drawing seems like a safer idea.

 

Force and Fire

These days, I keep taking the drawn force, lushness and violence from Willem De Kooning’s Women and Julie Mehretu’s storms; I take the lines, scratches and scrapes of Cy Twombly, Mike Parr, and Rebecca Horn… I can’t help but use a researcher’s eye and hand to scrutinize and explore mark-making techniques.

Departing from the celestial references in the Nova drawings, my new work warily uses fire as a driving force. Intensely about the Australian land and sky, fire is sublime because it destroys and regenerates, it’s terrifying and warming. Aside from all that, and most importantly to me, it sparks, cracks and swirls in ways that I want to draw.

 

Wildfire, 2013. Byron Kinnaird http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Fire-and-Night
Wildfire, 2013. Byron Kinnaird http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Fire-and-Night

Byron Kinnaird is one of the Directors of the Freerange Cooperative; an artist and poet at Factory 7; and a teacher and researcher for architecture at the University of Melbourne. His drawings are at www.drawnandwritten.com

Open Mics: A Compendium of Souls

Open mic jam sessions. Most people have stumbled across at least one such gathering. Where everyone is welcome and everyone is nervous, either because of what they are about to perform, or what they are about to witness. The adrenalin adds to the thrill. The experience is reminiscent of busking, except nobody gets paid, and there is an added sense of guilt if you walk away when someone is half way through a song. The hosts try and claim there are rules, but let’s face it, there are none. ‘Three songs only’ can be interpreted as ‘Open with Smoke on the Water, then play your morose 18 minute looped instrumental guitar piece, followed by a suicide threat relating to an ex-partner, then an ironic Britney Spears cover, because everyone knows Smoke on the Water was just a warm up. Then consider an encore

When the host turns off the PA or has the offender removed by security after the third uninvited encore, the stage once again sits in a dimly lit anticipation, waiting for whoever has finally found themself next on the list. The earnest youth with all heart and no skills, the dedicated master with all skills and no heart. The too louds and the too quiets, the progressive, the kitsch, the unpredictable, the Next Big Thing, the last big thing, the once-was from decades past. The bits left in the sieve, the bits that are not yet (or never were) refined enough to slip through the cracks into the comfort of mainstream acceptance.

I collect these moments; a compendium of souls bore through song, in whatever city, village, nook or cranny I might find an open mic. Hotel lobbies, basement bars, converted churches or prison cells, cocktail lounges, alfresco gardens, non-descript corners and nowhere petrol station taverns. Interiors dotted with bar stools, pool tables, poker machines and plasma TV screens. Couches. Chandeliers. Candles. Crowded or near empty with cover bands, metal bands, rappers, and troubadours; suits, bohos, hobos, who knows…

The most recent addition to the compendium is the Parisian man shredding variations of Pachelbel’s Canon on a skull guitar in a packed den of warm smiles near Pont Neuf in St Germain. For the most part, the distortion in the amp drowned out the sounds of the Brazilian man throwing up in the toilets.

From two years earlier, there is the semi-crippled boy soldier (now a young man) from Sierra Leone, standing near a pool table in a tavern on an island off the coast of Washington, singing heart breaking tales with all feeling and no discernable melody as the unrehearsed and ill-briefed house band play a cheesy impromptu reggae backing mix. Never have I felt cringe and admiration in such equal measures.

Then there are the countless Mondays I spent with a friend driving down a deserted highway to a dilapidated hotel nestled between the bridge and the train line in North Fremantle in Western Australia. Of all of the evenings here, there is one that stands out. Present (other than my friend and I) were the MC, two Swedish backpackers, some regular orange vests straight from the wharfs, and Ozzie Osbourne (dead ringer). He was there every week, drinking his routine bottle of bourbon, with few words and ample presence. This was the first time I had seen him take the stage. Under the gaze of the two dull stage lights, his long black hair shone from the bottom of his black cowboy hat, his black leather get up glowed and his dark glasses reflected like half dead disco balls. The only thing that sparkled with any ardency was the white shell pieces in his yin and yang belt buckle. He slurred a few mutterings, fumbled onto his chair and then began to tune his guitar. This tension building exercise went on for about twenty minutes. The “audience” grew impatient and started to heckle (mainly: “play a song!”).  As the tuning was just right he told everyone where to go in no uncertain terms, picked up the dregs of his bourbon, and exited the building. The room was quiet for a bemused moment of awe in his wake. Once again the stage was empty, waiting in dimly lit anticipation for whoever was next on the list.

Unlike a stadium gig, where every millisecond of uncertainty is choreographed away with pre-recordings, blinding lights and scripted or non-existent banter, these nights guarantee nothing. These nights cannot be replicated, only recounted by those who are lucky or unlucky enough to bear witness. These are the kind of nights you can’t pay for. These are the nights you don’t pay for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Architects and their childhoods

The constructive influence of childhood on an architect’s design philosophy.

Is it possible to understand the relevance of childhood experience in relation to the development of an architect’s design and professional philosophy? The creation of Architecture is often attributed to a set of skills learnt during a formal program of education and the philosophy of an architect is often attributed to their schooling or apprenticeship; whether it is with another architect or within a particular architectural environment.  However, the development of an architect’s professional philosophy potentially begins much earlier with an image, an emotion or an experience from childhood. The accumulation of these experiences, be they architectural, social or environmental, forms the basis of what Malcolm Quantrill calls a person’s “environmental memory”.

The experiences of architecture that occur during childhood are often associated with the way in which a person senses a place and, as a result of this, much has been written about phenomenology and memory in relation to the formation of design theory. It is phenomenological experience that first starts to educate, shape and inform a designer while they are a child. Scholars argue that these childhood memories and images heavily influence the architectural direction taken in later life and will often inform the basis of a person’s professional philosophy: an architect may recall them to try to recreate a place that evoked an emotion or sense of place.

German philosopher Martin Heidegger writes that phenomenology reveals our experience in a context and our more basic way of relating to some things is in a practical manner.   The experience of architecture as a child is phenomenological as our knowledge of the world is limited and so we experience a building or an environment in isolation. The experiences of childhood are stored as images, memories and atmospheres. Steven Holl, American architect and theorist, states that the experiences of childhood are the beginning point of the development of a pre-theoretical ground for architectural knowledge, inferring that the images and experiences the architect is exposed to as a child become the basis for an architect’s professional philosophy.

British architect and theorist Malcolm Quantrill, in his 1987 text The Environmental Memory, discusses the significance of these images a person stores and suggests that childhood is the starting point for the development of what he terms an “environmental memory”.  The significance of childhood manifests itself in the formation of an architect’s “environmental memory”; memory begins in our first room, we climb into it on our first stair, we nourish it with views from our first window. Images of these beginnings of consciousness are the basis for our dreams and aspirations…environmental memory begins in our first house, our first field, our first street and library. [i]

Individual architects have been discussed with regard to the way in which their childhood experiences have shaped their architecture in a way which recalls Quantrill’s ‘environmental memory’. Australian architectural critic and author Philip Drew records that for architect Glenn Murcutt, it was the similarities between the landscape of the Upper Watut and the Maria River at Crescent Head which awakened slumbering memories from his childhood and thereby contributed a powerful tropical character to the Marie Short house.

Glenn Murcutt is an Australian architect who is internationally renowned for his environmentally sensitive designs which have a distinctively Australian character. Immediately after his birth to the age of five, Murcutt lived in the coastal area of the Morobe district of Papua New Guinea, which in the 1930’s was both primitive and somewhat dangerous. Murcutt talks of the environment of his childhood:

[I] grew up in the highlands of New Guinea on the Upper Watut River. The lower end of the highlands, a very wild place with huge grasslands of Kuni grass, huge rainforests. […] We lived amongst the Kuka Kuka people, now known as the Manyamia people. […] at that time, fearsome people. And they actually attacked – now, at the time, we thought this was just terrible – and they killed”[ii]

This environment of his childhood is depicted in Arthur Murcutt’s photograph of Murcutt’s childhood home in Papua New Guinea, Figure 1.

Figure 1: Arthur Murcutt’s house on the Upper Watut, N.G., January 1936

Murcutt attributes his approach to architecture and his association with nature to his childhood in Papua New Guinea and Australia.[iii] Murcutt often refers to ideas similar to Quantrill’s concept of the “environmental memory” throughout his design processes, attributing his sensitivity towards the site and environment to his childhood education of place. Murcutt talks about the experiences, observations and lessons taken from the environment during his childhood as being with him for the rest of his life, and how this understanding of place has guided him in the design of his architecture.[iv]

The significance of Papua New Guinea is explained by American architect and academic Steven Holl as he explores the idea that sense perception is the basis for knowledge.[v] The degree of influence Papua New Guinea has had on Murcutt can not be measured in numerical terms, however it must be thought of as part of his basic understanding of space and architecture.

When looking at Murcutt’s varying projects it is not uncommon to wonder about the similarities between a Murcutt house and the Australian vernacular, however Murcutt rejects that this “provides any sort of formal model for his homes” which opens the discussion of the inspiration and design of many of his buildings.[vi] It is Philip Drew who draws the parallel between the Papua New Guinean long houses and Murcutt’s designs.[vii] He suggests that Murcutt has inherited the “striking combination of primitive and cultivated or refined qualities in the same building” from the buildings of his childhood. These similarities are obvious in the depiction of the long houses in Figure 2 and the Marie Short house, Figure 3.[viii]

Figure 2: PNG Long Houses

This project, the Marie Short House in Crescent Head, NSW clearly articulates Murcutt’s design philosophy and high regard for the Australian environment. The Marie Short  is considered a turning point of Murcutt’s architecture and the beginning of an identity for Australian architecture.[ix] Drew suggests that the Marie Short House “initiated a primitive treatment of form, a Miesian hut” of Australian architecture, this is echoed by Francoise Fromonot who describes the Marie Short House as “cross fertilization between an essentially modernist architecture […] borrowing from vernacular building”.[x]

Figure 3: Marie Short House

The influence of Murcutt’s childhood “environmental memory” can be traced through the site and climate specific building solutions of the Marie Short House. This building responds to the site through the simple use of limited and practical materials in a way that accommodates the natural environment. This attitude towards practicality and minimal decoration is similar to the vernacular long houses of Papua New Guinea, Drew discusses the “new conception of the house, […] a lightweight pavilion lifted off the ground and open along the sides [being …] closely related to a Pacific Island hut or tent”.[xi] These long houses are elevated simple long rectangular huts with steeply pitched saddle back roofs. The roofing and walls are traditionally made from thatched Kunai grasses and more recently corrugated iron. (see Figure 2)

One of the most interesting aspects of the building is its location on the crest of the land far away from the protection of any trees or other natural elements. The building sits exposed and visible to all aspects of the site. It can be argued that Murcutt’s fear of the dark and residual fear of attack lead him to place the building in the location of the site which had the best vantage point. Murcutt describes the Kuka Kuka people of Papua New Guinea snaking through the Kunai grasses, signaling trouble for his family, “it gave me a sense of fear, all my childhood, the evening, the darkness was when it would strike. And that fear lasted a long time”.[xii] Murcutt says it was only recently, when he returned to Papua New Guinea, that his fear was overcome.

Murcutt’s fear is explained by Heidegger who writes about the phenomenology of place and environment being attributed to the experience of a ‘thing’, in this case the feeling of insecurity and fear, exposing itself to a person.[xiii] He suggests that the phenomenological experience of childhood is powerful enough to carry itself throughout life despite the length of time exposure. Pallasmaa writes that there is a central theme in architecture, “the unconscious fear of death, or the fear of the insignificance of life”; this fear is evident in Murcutt’s design as he deliberately places the Marie Short house on the part of the site with the best vantage point.[xiv] These two views rationalize the significance of Murcutt’s childhood fear on his design philosophy.

Murcutt’s childhood is a significant influence on his design Pallasmaa and Heidegger make clear how the events of one’s childhood can have an unconscious impact on a person. One thing to note about Murcutt, the Marie Short house and his design philosophy, is that he does not consciously look to his childhood for inspiration; it is embedded in his being.

The influence of his life in Papua New Guinea, although short in duration, has clearly had a significant impact on Murcutt, partially rejecting Quantrill’s proposition that “[a]n environmental framework is not only one of space and form, it is also one of time: […] the environmental memory depends upon a “time exposure”.[xv] The siting of the Marie Short house is an emotional response to an experience from childhood which has manifested itself in his design philosophy. Murcutt’s use of “environmental memory” does support Quantrill’s theory in respect of the idea that a single “environmental memory” holds something that appeals to emotion, the fear of being attacked; and something that appeals to reason, the siting of the Marie Short house in the position where the chance for survival is highest.[xvi]

For Murcutt there is a strong and direct connection with his childhood, it is an unconscious knowledge of place and architecture which comes through in his design. For Murcutt there is some conscious knowledge of the influence his childhood is having on a specific design project, Pallasmaa concurs with this idea stating that “our actions are neither accidental nor arbitrary; they contain both conscious and subconscious motives”.[xvii]


[i][xv][xvi] Quantrill, 1987. The Environmental Memory

[ii] Murcutt, Glenn 2008. Transcript: Talking Heads, (Australian Broadcasting Company, Aired June 2nd)

[iii][viii][xi] Drew, 1985. Leaves of Iron

[iv][xii] Murcutt, 2008. Transcript: Talking Heads

[v] Holl, 1996. “Pre-theoretical Ground”

[vi] Farrelly, E. M. 1993. Three Houses: Glenn Murcutt

[vii] Of interest is the fact that Murcutt threatened to sue Drew over the misrepresentation of facts in Drew’s Leaves of Iron publication, however as Murcutt had approved the copy nothing eventuated.

[ix][x] Fromonot, 2003. Glenn Murcutt: Buildings and Projects

[xiii] Heidegger, 1993. Building, Dwelling, Thinking

[xiv][xvi] Pallasmaa, 2001. “The Mind of the Environment”

Broome to Port Augusta, Not in a Straight Line

~Dem woman’s understand~

“Hooshta” is the call as the lone Camel man prepares his string of hard workers for unloading.
Three days and nights before the sight of his girl and their new born baby, yet             to be seen by his own eyes.
As time and distance fall, thoughts of his appearance come to mind, preparations are in order!
That piece of soap stone that clings upon the saddle tree is manicured to remove its windswept razor edge, a most important job as
such an edge is capable of circumcising a galvanised water tank.
He fights the camels for the juicy bottle brush,
as a little sweetness under the arms won’t spoil the night.
As the homestead comes into sight,
the green camel far behind loses his step as the cheeky dogs circle,
Steady boys, Steady a strong yet firm command from the camel man gives his team of workers comfort as they carry their delicate load of provisions and mail towards the awaiting Mrs Boss, governesses and all the kids.
Pleasantries are kept to what needs to be said,
nothing more, nothing less.
His forever spoken love lay working beneath the floor boards,
amongst the heat, sweat and promise.
Another marble lands in the billy, that’s the call from up above,
Tea, sugar and fresh milk is in order quick, quick!!!
Ting! Another marble, two pots six cups.
That night amongst the camels, saddles, stars and a full moon he was holding his newborn, a prouder man yet to be seen, his joy alone was enough to light the night, and was well spoken in many a camp for months to come.
Their love was tolerated, but far from understood!
For years their love was coded from the slouch of a hat, 
As crude as it was it was theirs for the keeping!
It was spoken that whites wanted it easy, but that wasn’t the truth at all! Men from the land need dem woman’s that understand, an understanding that need not be explained.
“Dem woman’s really do understand”

-Dean Koopman

In 2004-05 Dean Koopman walked across the Australian outback from Broome to Port Augusta. Accompanied by 3 camels (Henry, Shabby and Hussan), the quartet took 9 months to traverse 6000km of desert. This was not the extreme stunt of a Bear Grylls-esque conqueror of nature, but an act of love from a man who grew up in the Simpson desert and after some years abroad as a social documentary photographer had returned to the land he felt most comfortable with.

Continue reading Broome to Port Augusta, Not in a Straight Line

Lake Eyre: A Little Trip to a Big Place

When I was told about a temporal sea in the middle of the Australian Outback I was immediately intrigued because it sounded more like a myth than reality.

Apparently – the story goes – every decade or so when drought breaks (see recent Queensland floods) the rain and floodwaters slowly migrate throughout the continent via networks of newly formed rivers, basins and subterranean waterways.  They end up in the country’s lowest point, located in arid South Australia.  Somehow fish get inside this huge body of water.  I’ve even heard some say that there are fish eggs in the desert waiting to hatch upon the water’s return.  With the fish come bird migrations and colonies.  And if it floods enough, the water sustains a brief ecological spurt; flower blooms erupt in the middle of the desert.   All this talk about water and biodiversity in arid Australia was an image I had not associated with the Outback.

And so with my romantic inclinations, I looked into it.

Lake Eyre satellite image

This ‘sea’ is otherwise known as Lake Eyre.  It is as real as it is mythologised, having been portrayed as a site of fascination and fear all throughout the national narrative of Australia.  According to some aboriginal accounts, Lake Eyre is a Kangaroo skin laid out flat.  In other accounts it is the site of death, with the salty remnants of tears shed by the Sky Gods.  For explorer John Edward Eyre it symbolised disillusionment after failing to find the heroic prizes usually associated with territorial expansion – resources, drinking water, power.  He then proceeded to name the lookout point upon which he discovered the Lake, Mount Hopeless.  Prior to that Thomas J. Maslen drew a fictional map, featuring an inland sea in the middle of the Australian continent.  The sea is shown as being connected by a massive river labelled “The Great River Or Desired Blessing”.   He thereby set the agenda for a national ideal, for a reality, which was at that time yet to be explored.  For geologist J W Gregory the Lake was branded as “The Dead Heart of Australia”.  Charles Sturt unsuccessfully carried a nine meter long whaleboat into the Outback, in a failed attempt to discover an inland sea.  Hydrologists lobbied to artificially kick start a permanently flooded Lake Eyre, as a means to irrigate the entire continent.  The stories go on and on…

I had the recent pleasure of visiting Lake Eyre and it’s surrounding satellite towns.  Here are some travel pics:

 

The ochre coloured township of Coober Pedy. Famous for opal mines and landscapes reminiscent of Mars. 70% of the population live underground, presumably to moderate the extreme temperatures experienced there. The topography of the town resembles that of a re appropriated opal mine, along with random mounds of excavated earth scattered all over the place. It is within these mounds that the houses are located. We had an interesting underground experience at a cafe where the owner closed the kitchen upon our arrival and politely showed us to the door because he needed to leave the shop to “buy some milk”.

 

There was a very cool space ship parked outside the local opal shop/town lookout.
More space junk in William Creek. This one is legit though – Stage one R3 Rocket from the 70s. Tangentially it is also near the historical atomic testing sites. Population: 5, or something to that effect. William Creek is one shop/petrol pump/pub/camping grounds. It is located midway along the Oodnadatta Track, which roughly follows the nearby western edge of Lake Eyre North. The track was previously an early explorers path, which followed a network of water bores.

 

Oasis. Big drought break. The desert was surprisingly green.

 

The remains of a Mosque located in Marree. The town has a history of Afghan Cameleers who settled there in the 1870’s. Coincidentally our travel routing plans were affected by lack of accommodation because of the coinciding annual Camel Cup races. Marree is also home to the Lake Eyre Yacht Club, which hosts a regatta every time the Lake is sufficiently flooded. It boasts to be the world’s most exclusive yacht club for that reason. They are currently in dispute with local Aborigines who oppose the practice of sailing on the lake.

 

The main course: The shores of Lake Eyre. 80% full. It’s a very salty lake, not much fun for swimming in especially for those with cuts or scratches. Up close it is shallow and not quite swimmable where we met the shore. It has a very thick mud base which never fully dries out under the salt pans even in the Lakes dried state. By this stage I’m feeling nauseous in our 1970’s colour schemed mini plane. But nevertheless pretty snap-happy on the ol’ camera.

 

A rather disorientating moment that didn’t help with my fragile state of motion sickness and feelings of strange juju.

 

Some salt pans that weren’t submerged by water.
Leaving the Lake. See you again next decade!

 

fin.

 

Facism and tyranny in Australia

I try not to use the words in the title of this blog lightly, like genocide and other strong words if they are thrown around loosely they lose the power to represent the truly awful things that humanity periodically does.  I live in a nice country called Australia, it is a vast land full of minerals and a vibrant multicultural society.  It does however occasionally show a remarkable streak of aggressive nasty politics. The post below from Norightturn tells the story of the Australians government vindictive reaction to the exposure of bad policy.

“Wikileaks is a public interest website devoted to exposing information governments want to keep under wraps. Last year they leaked the Australian government’s secret internet blacklist. The leak was deeply embarrassing for the government, as it exposed just how tawdry their blacklist was; alongside the material it was meant to be banning, it also included

a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.

Its a perfect example of the mission creep and false positives which mean that we cannot trust any government to block the internet. The government’s retaliatory action – blocking Wikileaks – underlined the point. But today, they went one further, cancelling Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s passport.

Assange is an Australian citizen. but he has now been effectively forbidden to travel overseas by his government, apparently because he embarrassed them.

This violates the freedom of movement affirmed in the ICCPR, to which Australia is a party. But the Australian government doesn’t care, and as they have no equivalent of our BORA, that right is unenforceable. Which is another example of why they need strong, enforceable human rights legislation now.”