Will the real Australia please stand up... 1996


Will the Real Australia Please Stand Up… A Travelogue was a collaborative exhibition with myself, Julie Hunt, Sue Moss (writers) and Andrea Breen (composer). It was the product of extensive travel across Australia in an HZ Kingswood. The exhibited work included sound, text, photographs, objects, postcards, mapping and performance. A few artefacts from the exhibition are pictured here, and my artist statement from the 1997 catalogue is reproduced below. Setting out on an open-ended journey “ to photograph Australia” was such a complex and arguably fraught undertaking that it seems inevitable that  my response to the project was to record my struggle with the politics and complexities of vision, sight, and seeing.

Try to Picture This

To tell the truth, I’ve always been fond of a good cliché: Fairytale, Road Movie, Audience Participation, that sort of thing. Not to mention Colour and Movement. In a sense, we’d already made the movie before we set out – three women across the bench seat of a Kingswood, the road tumbling out of the windscreen like a film.

But how to begin taking pictures, here, where so much has already been taken?  The Real Australia, with its Glaring Omissions and Beautiful Red Sunsets was taunting my camera with night-blindness. I’ve been black stumped out here.  Leave the lens cap on.  Focus on infinity.

Remember to bring a few spare identities. Blithe tourist (a small plastic camera), Serious Artist (a medium format camera), Family Chronicler (my father’s SLR). Three known ways to see the world make it easier to get out of the tent in the morning.

Along we went. In the manner of Hyper-tourists we took certain trails, looking in the mirrors and through the glasses by which the country focuses itself. Can such travellers allow experiences such as Awe, Wonder, and Sheer Pleasure in Colour to exist without sarcasm and interruptive deconstruction? It’s like the most wonderful, generous, amazing people we met along the way, who suddenly said the most savage, mindless, demeaning things- and then went on being wonderful, generous and amazing. Contradictions co-exist in layers, and the desire to separate things neatly is most often a frustrated one.

And so the work I have made is something of a palimpsest. It’s a little bit poem, it’s a little bit nursery rhyme, it’s a little bit piss-take, it’s a little bit homage. It’s grief-stricken, awestruck, school book and slide night, it’s a cross-word and apology, celebration, letter home, magnification and eye-test. It’s suitable for children five and up and may be viewed daily. Try to picture this.

Cath Barcan 1996