Uneasily along the sand

Uneasily Along the Sand evokes the state of mind of the great Mallee poet John Shaw Neilson during a period of hospitalization for nervous exhaustion around 1900. To his bed come the voices and apparitions of all those people whom he might have met but who in life eluded him. It is a ghost community of jesters, singers and seers, who parade in harlequin costumes and recall the poet to the vanishing spirit of the Mallee forest.


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In particular, a Wotjobaluk man by the name of ‘Jowley’ haunts him, a man found by white people as a child abandoned in a hollow log – abandoned, lost, stolen? The sound installation called Mac (that forms part of Uneasily and which will receive its first national broadcast to coincide with Palimpsest) evokes their strange meeting and a kind of reconciliation of peoples and cultures with environments that remains elusive.

The hospital where Neilson heard strange voices and saw strange visions is evoked in a video work based on a set of ‘actions’ performed in Mildura’s Old Base Hospital and sound recordings made in Pyrenees House, Ararat (a replica of the Swan Hill Hospita where Neilson was confined). The hospital solarium is transformed into a strangely distorted Mallee paddock, of sand, of barbed wire and mattresses that leak like hour glasses. Caught in he fence lines of this dream world are scraps of a woman’s dress, bed sheets inscribed with charcoaled graffiti and footprints alluding to the ‘unevennesses’ of a life.

Uneasily long the sand is inspired by Paul Carter’s recent book, Ground Truthing: explorations in a creative region, and Uneasily coincides with Opening, a with first showing of another work inspired by Ground Truthing that Paul and Dirk de Bruyn have created for the big screen at Federation Square, Melbourne.