Graceful Degradations | A Romance of Ruins
To paraphrase anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss: mythologies embody and disguise in their structures fundamental contradictions which no society can resolve. Australia provides a compelling example of this thesis. As the most urbanised nation on earth with the vast majority of citizens living in coastal cities, Australia has generated a long list of triumphant colonialist mythologies constructed via archetypes of bushman boundary riders in remote frontier towns and barren deserts, or larrikins overcoming adversity in the punishing outback.
Such characters frame an identity that never truly was the ‘real’ Australia, despite its popularity in the global imagination and our own projected nationalism.
The resonance of such mythologising has not only failed to reflect the complexity of Australian society, it has also historically served to whitewash the profound impact of European settlement on Australia’s Indigenous population.
These mostly low-light images of remote mining regions and regional farming communities in decline, deliberately free of the archetypal characters that would inhabit them according to folklore, foreground the contradictions of modern Australian society. Focusing on its ruins, relics and neglected spaces, these locations and objects become metonyms of a fading and fraught fixation with Australia's most celebrated tropes of identity.