The beautiful landscape of 'Marathon' seems to me at once breathtakingly familiar and yet still so strange. How can it be possible for such a place, so like my homeland, to exist here, on the opposite side of the world?
Momentarily, through my eyes, the river is not the Nile but the Coiltie, and the sheep are those that graze peacefully in the fields of Glen Urquhart. Then, all of a sudden, I am skewed as the smell of eucalyptus reaches my nostrils and seeps into my lungs. The sun-hardened surface of the land startles and repels my footfall, telling me that I do not belong.
As these dichotomous sensations vie for my attention I find myself drifting into an empathic realm that extends both within and beyond what is immediately perceived. From the silent hollow of my being, incomplete letters and words slowly start to emerge, fluxing through time and space. How can these pieces be made whole?
Old wool bale stencil, purchased c. 1998 at the Evandale Market, not far from Marathon
And so I take soundings. With all my senses I ‘listen’ to the landscape of 'Marathon' and feel the presence of its many histories. As the resulting words and sentences take shape, they are added to an ongoing series called Soundings that I commenced in 2012. These short meditations/propositions are an attempt to make connections between place and being. They are ‘pieces’ that anyone can play.
Bron Fionnachd-Féin, Soundings (Marathon Project) 2015, video 5m 30s.
This is an approach and sentiment that is echoed by Nicholas Rothwell in his Eric Rolls lecture, What lies beyond us?, in Canberra, October 2014:
What is the secret that hides behind the landscape? What are the half-glimpsed shadow lines that draw us in? What mystery of energy or presence is it that we feel around us when we find ourselves alone in the bush, surrounded by the unfolding expanse of country? Plants, earth, ranges, sky — each element shaping and defining all the others. I pose these questions, these interlinked questions […] more as a set of soundings sent down into a formless dark and as steps on a track towards some systematic enquiry.
Marathon Experience/Response 2016
During this second year of experiencing 'Marathon', a new set of Soundings meditations/propositions materialised onto tags which were attached to pristine white cotton gloves.
The neighbouring property to 'Marathon' is 'Patterdale', home during the early 1800s to an English artist called John Glover who became famous for his landscape paintings (which are now, of course, handled carefully with white gloves). So, with the following questions in mind, and borrowing an old picture frame found in the shearing shed, I performed a number of activities under the name 'The Gloverer'.
Where is art? Is it always something that is made and presented? Or can it also be something that presents itself to anyone, anywhere, at any time? What do we value, why, and how do we handle and care for it?
The tags attached to the gloves were stamped with 'Authorised by The Gloverer', and the Soundings meditations/propositions were typewritten onto the reverse.
Bron Fionnachd-Féin, selected documentation from the Handle with Care series (digital photographs and installation) 2016.
Marathon Experience/Response 2017
Over the course of the third year of The Marathon Project, I was horrified to discover the raw and detailed truths of what happened in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) during British colonisation — the extreme cruelty and violence, persecution and murder of the Aboriginal people who had lived here for c.60,000 years. So many facts have been buried by the authors of history for far too long.
'Marathon' and its surrounds were part of the hunting ground of notorious bounty hunter John Batman, who lived nearby at the property called 'Kingston'. History has lauded Batman as a co-founder of Melbourne, however even George Arthur, Colonial Governor of Van Diemen's Land from 1824 to 1837, acknowledged that John Batman '...had much slaughter to account for'.
“In his letters of July 1830, John Batman describes how he had dispatched Aboriginal women of the Ben Lomond Nation along tracks around their ‘usual haunts’ around Stacks Bluff and to Pigeons Plains — the Nile Valley near Lilyburn Bridge, north of Deddington.”
‘Lilyburn Bridge’ spans the River Nile next to the entrance to ‘Marathon’.
This was my response:
Bron Fionnachd-Féin, H[A]UNTED (3 soundings, 3 responses) 2017, video 5m 35s.