A short essay written for Out the back of beyond, an exhibition of works from Marungka Tjalatjunu (2023) & The Sand That Ate The Sea (2023) shown at GAGProjects Adelaide, Australia.

In 1954, John Heyer, an 'Australian' documentary filmmaker, made "The Back of Beyond," a film set in South Australia following Tom Kruse, a white Australian, as he traverses his mail route from Kuyani Country (Marree) to Yarluyandi Country (Birdsville). 

Buried within this film is a still applicable mapping of the Colonist's relationship to the land. A map that sees with great clarity the extent of our anxiety, our dislocation, and our essential need to connect with the immense spiritual power of this place, which is not our own.

Such works, depicting white settlers crossing, or encountering the land, expose a fragile aspect of 'Australian' identity. They reveal a void made from the undeniable desire for closeness with this occupied land. "The Back of Beyond" acknowledges this void to some extent. Even if it is seen with eyes that do not (cannot) fully comprehend it, there is a desperate attempt to perceive the Land beyond the colonial frontier and see it through the lens of Aboriginal understanding.

Disregarding Aboriginal histories and values, new settlers romanticised the land's beauty, while attempting to mould it into known shapes and familiar - paving asphalt parking lots over sacred ground, and carving mail routes through desert dunes. These distinctly colonial acts of refusal exposed the brutality of the conflicted relationships with land; a land given importance only for the permanent attractions and temporary emplacements it can be transformed into. A land valued only when productive, endlessly quantifiable, and ultimately sub-divisible.

It is becoming clear to me that filmmaking is itself a spiritual endeavour imbued with the significance of ritual. Through this ritual nature it is able to reveal histories and understandings. "The Back of Beyond", in its ritual, uncovered something profound that echoed with an urgent need to confront the past, and forge a new understanding of this land we call 'Australia'. Out the back of beyond features images from two of my films, which explore remote regions of South Australia & Central Australia across Kaurna, Kuyani, Kokatha, and Arremte Country, as I have tried (and often failed) to just this. To make my own connection to this country, and in doing so confont its past and potential future.

Both are works which attempt to see into the grit and the dreaming that seems to me so innate to this Land. Works that have helped begin to form my own relationship to the country I was born into.