In Search of a Melbourne Aesthetic


The Shoring Project

It’s (Coee Song) No Man Speak and a good illustration of what I’d call colonial double-talk. Colonisers use a language that sounds like the real thing. But it’s often a strategy for silencing real communication. But listening to this and recognising this, it’s possible to use puns, double-talk and verbal tricks differently. (Paul Carter. No man’s Land Script-)

The shoring project is in search of a Melbourne Aesthetic that has fallen through the gaps of critical analysis and slipped out of local memory. Is this a ‘death of place’ I tried unsuccessfully to name in my own film of the same name? I have witnessed this slipping, encountered the denials and erasures. They were resisted but remain my bodies open wounds. Such wound-witnessing is available globally, yet they are not the same wounds. The double talk of the “The Shoring Project” refers to shoring up a dilapidated lost local practice but also the beach, the On The Beach that brought Ava Gardner to Melbourne and marks the first view and first line crossed by this land’s colonisers, the ones that pronounced there is nothing here.

The project is my and Jim Bridges attempt to pull 1980s Melbourne Super 8 film out of the dusty cupboards and sheds of misremembered artists and lost works. I read the MS8G as a contested space where ideas and attitudes were buttressed against each other to produce some dynamic sparks. A good place to start this looking? Many names are there in Cantrills Filmnotes but the films are no longer accessible. That requires reclaiming, shoring up, and it opens a vital question what is it that is disappearing from public view. Corinne used to tell me that they would put my name down in the funding box for marginalised groups, being a migrant. But I was not performing as a migrant? Or was I? Was I being told I was not important? Reading Sara Ahmed’s Complaint!, makes it clear, once again, how I have been acted upon and deferred in a procession of cultural projects, the high, no low point, of which was MIMA.

There was something in my marginal discounted New Australian identity that had attracted me to a community of artists in a marginal practice, a scene now dissolved. It was about the marginal, the precariat, a mixture of forms and identity that embraced ambiguity, punning and form, inserting itself somewhere in the intersections between diary, formalism, technicalities, and documentary, and sourced by a canon emanating out of the United Kingdom and the United States. Travelling leter internationally with local programs gleaned from the MIMA yearbooks, the accumulated feedback located something fresh and unique in these historic works. And I saw parallel national histories that told me that the US and UK works that had influenced me were not the first cabs off the rank. These realisations enabled me to read this Melbourne scene as a corrupted, silenced space echoed in Paul Carter’s reading of Australia as a “toxic mirror state” (Carter, 2021 p.203). It was not about me. I was out of that infantile state, although Melbourne was swimming in its fog. It was about all of us and where we were. Why had this local work become, remained, so culturally invisible? Callum from Memory Lab wanted to show them to the AFW cohort, a local collective.

I was on a tram to East Brunswick returning copies of Mr. Green and Mr. Fat to Maj Green which had been digitally transferred. As well as the original, she had two Super 8 prints of each. She had not looked at them for 20 years. They took a month to find. I remembered her and Ewan Cameron doing pantomime performances at screening openings for Fringe Network before they toured their performances around Europe. Doors just opened up, money was available to put projects into play in Berlin. Not here. All these details in putting Grants together here was too onerous and manipulative. They were about reactionary and improvisation.

Paul Carter, Translations, an Autoethnography: Migration, Colonial Australia and the Creative Encounter. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2021).


In Translation

What is a Melbourne Aesthetic?

The terms you use in framing your search suggests that such a thing has existed but has become lost, metaphorically fallen through the cracks. But the way I read this is that you are first proceeding with the possibility that such a thing can be identified, not so much that it can be recouped or reclaimed. By referring to a collection of practices centred on 1980s Melbourne Super 8 film culture, as chronicled through Super Eight: The Newsletter of the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group and Cantrills Filmnotes in particular, you speak to personal experiences that we share, and many that we don’t share. By engaging in this we are also curating our memories into a kind of collective autobiography, an auto-ethnography.

The idea of a Melbourne Aesthetic is fascinating, perhaps something identifiable but elusive that I think I was particularly aware of when I arrived there in the late 1980s as a post-colonial migrant from the former colonising culture. And of course, it speaks to broader questions about Australian cultural forms, attitudes, identities, the cultural cringe, the tyranny of distance, the centre/provincial relationship, the local in the global, the sort of things that precipitate a constant, and changing, critique of Australia’s cultural perception of itself. A national identity is always going to be a construction, behind which lurks ever mutable multiplicities. But you’re zoning in on a very local question which can elude totalising colonial nationalism and remain UnAustralian, if you like.

In a box marked UnAustralian I find the book of essays for the 1992 event Imagining the City. In the introduction Juliana Engberg references some Melbourne Super 8 films (by Sandy Munro, Nick Ostrovskis, Jennifer Pignataro, and Mark La Rosa) which I assume screened as part of the event. Engberg writes that they are a “…loving, awkward and biased view of Melbourne…” and that they “…begin the work of unpicking the grid. They shift our focus from the neat table-cloth of gentility and Modernism to issues which cannot be contained within the tourist brief of generic experience.” Does she describe an elusive aesthetic?

You cite Paul Carter a copy of whose book Amplifications I recently acquired. Amplifications is quite autobiographical, and how else do we experience these things except affectively, subjectively? Is an aesthetic a collective affective experience? It remains slippery, it resists codification. In the introduction Carter writes that when he first arrived in Australia, he

…had the feeling that there existed another place behind the one in which I stood and walked. The current physical arrangements seemed without foundations; normal appearances were defensively clear-cut as if repressing unease; there was a lurking puzzlement about the meaning of things, as if they existed in a mirror state, equal and opposite to the ideas they represented.

In your opening quote Paul Carter writes of a colonial language “…that sounds like the real thing…” but can be “…a strategy for silencing real communication.” His solution is found in reclaiming “…puns, double-talk and verbal tricks”, neat tricks to dismantle the phoney metaphysics of presence underpinning the assumed semantic authenticity of the ‘real thing’. The question of whether a colonial culture in which one might recognise imported structures, forms and aesthetics, can be authentically ‘real’ in the distorting hall of mirrors that Carter describes, is as much a moot point as whether imported cultural forms themselves can be thought of as originary or authentic.

I have just read Timothy Morton’s book The Stuff of Life. It is quite autobiographical situating Morton’s philosophical thought both in his personal experience and in dialogue with wider ecologies. In one passage he writes about receiving an audio file and after attempting to describe what he hears observes that:

Describing things and being things are actually on a spectrum. Describing things and causing things are also on a spectrum. OOO [Object Orientated Ontology] doesn’t think that words like “cause” are big and grown up and real and strong while words like “illustrate” are flimsy and feminine and ineffectual. OOO believes that the aesthetic dimension, where things are accessed, paraphrased, illustrated – ‘translated’ to use Graham Harman’s beautifully succinct word- is the causal dimension.

His description of what he hears in the sound file is a translation. As a field recording the sound file is already a translation of some or other where, and that to “…translate is always to make some kind of difference in short, to effect something, to have an effect … to cause something.” This was useful for me in thinking what ‘representation’ does, it translates. To think of a Melbourne Aesthetic is to present a Melbourne as imagined in the aesthetic dimension, to access and illustrate those objects that might be considered as characteristic of our version of Melbourne culture, offering an alternative translation to Carter’s distorting mirror colonial language.

The question of a Melbourne Aesthetic so far remains as slippery and elusive as the resonance of thousands of subjective experiences. It filters and is filtered through the light, the sound, the environment, the weather, the topography, local, national, and global history, and any other phenomena that stimulate individual and collective perceptions and the production of knowledge.

So, this project involves a construction avant la lettre, it necessitates creative activity to bring it into existence. It won’t be found in the cracks; it will only exist if it’s translated into the aesthetic dimension.

This is the task.

Webb, Penny. 1992. Imagining the City: Documents. Melbourne: Centre for Design at RMIT.

Carter, Paul. 2019. Amplifications: Poetic Migration, Auditory Memory. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Morton, Timothy. 2023. The Stuff of Life. London, UK ; New York, NY, USA: Bloomsbury Academic.



Since its inception in 1988, Experimenta has grown into a contemporary survey, not only of experimental cinema and video, but of just about all the forms and disciplines which have spewed forth from the unique capacities of cinema and its incumbent movements within a space-time continuum. (Riley, 1992 p.2)

Your Engberg reference could be skirting about a so far unlocated Melbourne Aesthetic, for sure, but she seems on a drive-through to somewhere else. Perhaps like we all are? The Shoring Project intends to spend more time at these locations, and I am scouring Experimenta 1992 for clues. In Vikki Riley’s summation of that event, quoted above, she embraces experimentation’s relationship to other moving image forms. This suggests a hybridity for the local with more fluidity between forms than other international avant-gardes. I think of Experimenta’s open screenings and the MS8G screenings, also open, as important tools for prospecting and shaping such a local aesthetic. Jeniffer Phipps’ description from Experimenta 1992 of ‘a vividness, an immediacy and familiarity which bring daily experience into collision with the separateness of art and the museum’ (Phipps 1992, p.95), straddles and marks that sustained Australian gap between Art and Cinema scenes, support and funding that MIMA was unsuccessfully briefed to bridge.

I recall wrapping myself in an Australian flag that contained memorable Aussie battler Pauline Hanson in our Un-Australian performance with Nicole Skeltys to an audience probably sourced from MS8G, MIMA and Fringe. Hanson’s One Nation party seems as shapeshifting-ly elusive to hunt down as the location of a Melbourne Aesthetic. Its not a palatable parallel history.  I certainly experience Melbourne, not as one of the most liveable cities in the world based on corporate questionnaires and framing of the CBD to be broadcast on the nightly news. My experience is stacked on top of migrant tags of “New Australian” and “Multiculturalism”. These “un-Australian” identities are filtered and corralled through Melbourne’s suburban margins. All kinds of corners are cut and hidden there, pains initiated to be escaped from and expressed in an inner-city art scene (re-enactments of our parent’s migration?). Are the sheds where lost works are now gathering dust locatable in marginal suburban dungeons?

To try and be creative about hunting down this snark, I am drawn to sonic forms, following Morton’s sound file. I begin to see a melting pot, a bed of soiled translations, also responding to Carter’s thinking on translation. Visually the electric trails in a cloud chamber come to mind, or a Chladni plate into which Arf Arf thump and scream. For me, Bill Mousoulis’s most experimental work is the fragmentary collage of loose ends in When I Grow Up (1996). What attracted me is his mother’s off camera home-penetrating moan while Bill stands frozen in the corridor. “What is she saying? Is it a rage, an opera, a lament, a tantric ownership of the space. Does she know it is being RE-corded, hijacked out of her mouth?” (de Bruyn 1996. p.6) In the recent screening at this year’s Melbourne Cinematheque this section was missing, gutting my view of the film. Impishly, I now ask, is a Melbourne aesthetic locatable in Bill Mousoulis’s mother’s moan?

Whatever aesthetic there is/was/will be is un-available to a next generation of local moving image innovators who continually source, like I did, a British and American canon, while standing right in the middle of the local. I give my last words in this exploratory dialogue to Pierre Bourdieu. In The Cunning of Imperialist Reason he states that ‘Cultural imperialism rests on the power to universalize particularisms linked to a singular historical tradition by causing them to be misrecognized as such’. (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1999, p.42) Does placing a Melbourne Aesthetic fit anywhere in relation to an international canon? Does it make any sense at all? Is this experimental concept a European particularism falsely understood as a universal phenomenon? Is this Shoring Project merely another colonial act?

Bourdieu, Pierre and Wacquant, Loïc. 1999. “On the Cunning of Imperialist Reason.” Theory, Culture & Society Vol 16, Issue 1, 1999

de Bruyn, Dirk. 1996 “Bill’s Home Page (or RE-inventing In No Sense)” Melbourne Super 8 Newsletter. Issue No.114 June 1996

Phipps, Jennifer. “Installation” in Experimenta 1992, MIMA. St Kilda.

Riley, Vikki. 1992 “Of Prisms and Tools: The possibility of an Avant-garde” in Experimenta 1992, MIMA. St Kilda.


memory, archive, history, community, futures

Does placing a Melbourne Aesthetic fit anywhere in relation to an international canon? Does it make any sense at all? Is this experimental concept a European particularism falsely understood as a universal phenomenon? Is this Shoring Project merely another colonial act?

Our recent conversation about the project has reinforced my sense of it being rooted in our personal memories of particular practices at a particular time. In attempting to canonise it (if indeed that’s what this is) the practice becomes subject to forms of both archiving and historicisation, from which follow questions about how the recognition of an area of practice that was outside the mainstream, through archiving and historicisation, can occur, in what context, and with what at stake? What is the archive and what is history in this regard? Is there a danger of reiterating the colonial ideologies of official archives and official histories?

These thoughts run adjacent to work I am currently doing in relation to the British Artists’ Film and Video Study Collection at Central Saint Martins, so I’ll draw on some of the ideas and references that I’ve been working with around that, particularly in relation to what has become institutionally known as ‘decolonisation’, to try to develop a position from which to unpack these questions.  From a colonial (or post-colonial) standpoint personal practices existing within the legacy of a structure where archives are part of a process of cultural determinism, national and local, in Australia, federal and state, don’t to my mind so much replicate an imported model, but rather establish one that has become structurally ideologically embedded and imposed upon citizens and residents of both native and migrant heritage alike since that first invading fleet. In other words as a local manifestation of an ideology it represents a continuum.

In In Memory of Memory Maria Stepanova recounts sorting through a deceased aunt’s belongings, a process which triggers a deeply affecting essayistic trawl threading personal history and memory through familial loss in the aftermath of genocidal devastation. She draws on swathe of modern literature to construct an expansive collage of reflective examinations of the conditions of life through times of trauma and its aftermath. She reminds us that the state, the institutional, and the personal weave through lives of humans as individuals and communities. She characterises archive objects as single units residing in isolation, in vast number, locked away in darkness, only occasionally if ever exposed to the dim light of the study room. We might abstract the archive itself as a singular congealed object consisting as millions of lives without apparent significance, but when it comes to history only one or two enlarged details, one or two lives, small parts relative to the whole are called upon as examples to stand in for the whole.

This certainly holds true of the relationship between the hundreds of thousands of pieces of material residing in the collection that I manage, and the histories constructed from a handful of individuals, tendencies, and practices, drawn out into the light claiming to broadly represent an entire area of cultural practice and the individuals who engaged in it.

What is it about the structure of archives and collections, and their relationship to the construction of histories, that produces such a process?

In Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism Ariella Azoulay characterises Imperial archives as having been perceived as protected closed spaces, where both inclusion and access is granted by appointed gatekeepers. Further, the archive, by casting its acquisitions as historical objects, actively contains the unruly temporalities of artefacts that she claims resists the division into past, present, and future. Moving image works, due to their inherently temporal form, unspooling both literally and metaphorically in time, by their nature also blur such temporal specificity.

To open thinking about what an archive might be Azoulay contends that it is not about some siloed past but should be thought of as a commons and suggests a different kind of narrative to a historical one that considers objects as representing arrested temporalities. By extension alternative approaches need to recognise that the archive has never been unchanging and immutable, it has always been a site of contestation with a long history of attempts at deconstruction. As such the archive has never been a secure and safe place for the storage of documents, it has never had integrity and coherence. Azoulay warns that an alternative history cannot adopt a structure of historical temporal progress that erases previous struggles, rather it needs to adopt a structure of ongoing and continuous struggle between competing incompatible principles.

In relation to Melbourne-based work, this reminds me of the Cantrills’ self-appointed role as advisors to the film archive in its acquisition of experimental film, their lobbying of the Australian Film Commission, and the role of Cantrills Filmnotes as a platform for constructing an alternative history for experimental practice.

In Azoulay’s terms what does being co-opted by the colonial archive imply? Does it risk tacit endorsement of colonial methods and ideologies? She suggests that the alternative histories already exist, but its authors need to unlearn the imperial version of doing history to tell it.

Claire Holdsworth claims, in relation to constructed histories of artists’ practice in film and video in the latter part of the Twentieth Century, that “…the selves within history and the selves depicting history overlap: they are what I have termed, perpetrator historians.” Her ‘perpetrator historian’ participates in a complex ecology in which oral history or primary-source accounts become fused with the objective summary of factual, historical overview. Their perspective is that of witness and participant, whose texts sometimes obscure their roles as protagonists in the stories they tell. These protagonists have also become curators and archivists. A counter to the implied problematic of the protagonist historian (curator, archivist…) is that a subjective standpoint can be a dissident voice in the co-opted marginal practices. However, to revisit Azoulay’s assertion above, how many alternative histories, while attempting to set the record straight about marginal practices, succeed mainly in reproducing the imperial structure at a local level, as subjective voice segues into official narrative.

In relation to what we might regard as avant-garde practice, it could be argued that despite so often positioning itself as marginal or oppositional, the avant-garde is already structurally elitist. During the late 1960s – ‘70s, at the pomp of its avant-garde experimentalism the London Filmmakers’ Co-op, while often dealing with the problems of representation in formal aesthetic terms, remained a closed shop, it never considered representation in broader social terms, its practices ring-fenced from most other artistic contemporary practices, whether socially radical or establishment. The avant-garde by its very nature is in danger of perpetuating a Western enlightenment narrative of progress, producing an elitist structure with a small membership of cutting-edge ‘visionaries’, boldly advancing where the masses might one day follow while patronisingly telling them what to think.

How can we avoid reproducing elitist structures that construct histories from selective material examples from the dispersed archive?

The Melbourne Super 8 Film Group (MS8FG) was one of my first experiences of local alternative filmmaking activity when I arrived in Melbourne in the late 1980s. I still remember attending an open screening consisting of films in a variety of genres: formalist experimentation, agit-prop documentary, personal impressionism, suburban narrative, home movies (I think probably by Nick Ostrovskis, David Cox, Jenny Pignataro, Bill Mousoulis, and Ian Poppins respectively), among others. What astounded me, being just off the ‘plane from London where such diversity of generic forms would not have been tolerated in the avant-garde elite of the London Filmmakers’ Co-op, was the convivial co-existence of work of such diversity, in one room, apparently without friction.

Azoulay’s characterisation of archive-as-commons, i.e. as accessible to all, maps on to practice as accessible to all, anti-elitist, manifested in community. MS8FG was a community of practice, it wasn’t progressive or avant-garde, it was open, inclusive; it wasn’t aesthetically or generically deterministic, its only condition was the use of a specific film gauge. For a while there was indeed a cohort of formally experimental makers in its number, and and at other times a core of narrative film makers, however it remained crucially and consciously open to, and representative of all forms of practice; it embraced the rough and tumble of multiple subjectivities and their generic predispositions of choice, rather than pursue an ideological aesthetic agenda. It was community, it was a decolonised practice. No doubt its dedication to Super 8, a domestic non-professional format, played a role in its egalitarianism, but the lowly gauge was embraced as an efficacious medium for any level of production, the distinction between amateur and professional was irrelevant.

Where does this take us in the question of what a Melbourne Aesthetic might be? To my mind aesthetics is an emergent property of cultural production, like a shape or a smell, it has a source, or multiple sources, it takes a form. But you turn it around and it changes or disperses, shape-shifting and elusive, but always emergent. The commons resists colonialism even while it may have little choice but to reside in the colony there is no necessity for it to reproduce a colonial structure.

A Melbourne Aesthetic may exceed the shape and smell that emerges from the MS8FG, but the group, as central to my own personal experience and memory of it, is exemplary. A Melbourne Aesthetic emerges from a demographically diverse community with its messy, sometime dysfunctional, relationships, its hardships, its struggles, its moments of celebration and pleasure, comradery, conviviality, and solidarity, cemented but not determined by a medium based practice.

In the 1990s the group was a bulwark against an increasingly pernicious colonial deterministic commodification, a top-down elitist authoritarian cultural agenda as the construction of government sanctioned national identity, known as Creative Nation. MIMA was destined to fulfil its role as a qango delivering its interpretation of Creative Nation as a programme, it was thus part of the colonial imperative and naturally it was well remunerated for its efforts.

If a Melbourne Aesthetic can be represented by something like the unruly sense of what emerged from the MS8FG in the 1980s–90s, as a wildly diverse set of practices and social demographics, a multiplicity rather than a single easily identifiable or commodifiable entity, then perhaps the question becomes what is it for, what is its function and use? Can we move beyond the question of an aesthetic as a sensibility to framing it as methodology? Would the real legacy not be a selection, however comprehensive, of material, artefacts, newsletters, whatever? Or historical accounts which are necessarily, inevitably, fatally unrepresentative of anything more than subjective accounts from which that sensibility might be distilled? Of course, subjective accounts are always crucial, but to frame them as historically representative and anything more than a construction is to slip back into a colonial model that obscures its complicity in a cloak of objectivity.

In writing these words I’ve been inching closer to this idea of aesthetics as methodology, one that incorporates a variety of methods, manifested in process and practice. As a legacy it persists as an emergent property, but one that potentially can be extensive, not one that projects the past into the future, but one that could be a model of how to do things in an increasingly fascist world.

Stepanova, Maria. 2021. In Memory of Memory: A Romance. Translated by Sasha Dugdale. London: Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Azoulay, Ariella. Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism. London ; Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2019.

Holdsworth, Claire. 2016. History has Tongues. University of the Arts London PhD thesis.


Dirk de Bruyn (1,3)

Steven Ball (2,4)

Steven Ball lived and worked in Melbourne in the 1990s, he had a close association with Melbourne Super 8 Film Group, and made dozens of super 8 films. He now lives and works in London, his work is concerned with post-colonial landscape environments across a range of media contexts including song, moving image, performance and installation. He is a Research Fellow at University of the Arts London.

Birth of Surveillance

Charles Pratt in Cockpit WW! 1917


The Birth of Surveillance

Up up we went until houses became mere replicas of those made from toy blocks by children. Evergreen trees looked ridiculously uniform in shape, resembling the miniature pines associated with the days of our youth and Santa Claus’s toy gifts. Picking out familiar houses and points resolved itself in a fascinating puzzle, which grew by bounds as we sailed along. The Geelong Football ground was presented by an oval the size of a bracelet, whilst the Eastern Cemetery looked exactly like a piece of “pepper and salt” tweed. (Geelong Advertiser, 1920)

This describes one of the first joy rides Charles Pratt flew from Geelong’s Belmont Common where he set up his aviation business, “Geelong Air Service Pratt Bros” after the First World War in 1920. The complete lyrical description from which this quote was taken invokes images of colour in me, a sensation not generally invoked by the high contrast black and white photographs that mark the period.  These ‘new frontier’ joyrides upped the ante on the Amusements of St. Kilda’s Luna Park introduced 8 years earlier, for example. Whereas Luna Park cost 6 pence to enter, a sky flight was significantly higher. In his often-mundane diary, which he fastidiously kept all his life Charles Pratt noted; “I took up five in the morning and five in the afternoon altogether collected £7.” (Pratt, Jan 1. 1920)

Charles Daniel Pratt (1892-1968) started working life as a New Zealand grocer in Helensville coming to Geelong after the First World War. He had enlisted in the army from 1914-18 and served in the Gallipoli campaign, where he was wounded, as well as the Egypt and Palestine campaigns, serving in the New Zealand Engineers, in the motor dispatch riders, receiving a Victory Medal, with his final service in the Royal Flying Corps based at Ismailia with the No. 113 Squadron RAF. He rose from private to Lieutenant during his service and was a proficient flyer when war ended. The Palestine campaign marked the beginning of photographic air reconnaissance to discern military movement and to clearly map difficult terrain. The new aerial photographic tool extended British military surveillance and mapping of the region. The First World War trained many pilots in air photography with improved technologies requiring both a pilot and photographer. Aerial photography had come of age in the Palestine campaign by augmenting inadequate maps of the Turkish Front. Such reconnaissance morphed into an essential post-war cartographic instrument, an efficient contemporary technique for marking and visually containing Empire. This technical advance predicted the later digital use of Google maps to contain the world at an even more pervasive and insidious level.

At war’s end these early planes that Pratt had learned to fly became war surplus. With the family inheritance of the father who had recently passed away Pratt bought two De Havilland GH6s, an Avro 504 and a Sopwith Pup, disassembled and crated for shipment from the Suez Canal to Wellington New Zealand. Geelong was chosen for residency by chance. Charles had bought the shipment of 4 crated planes and found difficulty in moving to Wellington from the docks in Melbourne due to an industrial dispute on the wharves. As a result he assembled one De Havilland plane there with help of engineers from the transport ship at No 10 Berth. Central Pier, Victoria Dock. Pratt taxied the assembled De Havilland, skimming over crates, precariously missing an overhead crane and the masts of nearby ships to park at a Port Melbourne airfield. He subsequently flew around Port Phillip Bay, discovering the Belmont Commons as a good place to offer joyrides around the area, leasing it in 1920 with residence established at 200 Latrobe Terrace, Geelong.

Pratt’s migration and settlement transformed a war machine on which he had heroically performed into a joyride experience for his passengers. His Aerial photography marked and historically documented the emerging suburban and industrial landscapes of Geelong and Port Phillip Bay. The speed of movement around Victoria and landscape vistas was unique, but a 100 years later such views became available on every digital device globally. The mechanics of surveillance has migrated out of the landscape and directly in the bodies of all those citizens sitting frozen and staring at a computer screen. Pratts’ engagement with technology straddles that gap.

Geelong Waterfront 1923


 Theatre of Surveillance

 Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality, understood as recalcitrant, inaccessible; of making it stand still. (Sontag :165: 1977)

Surveillance and photography have a long historical relationship. The evolution of the mechanics of the recorded image runs parallel with the rise of modern surveillance society. During photographic exposure, light reflected off the subject falls through the lens and induces changes in the photosensitive film, or more recently onto digitalised pixels. This physical and fundamental connection between the subject and the material of the captured image, the ‘indexicality’ is intrinsically linked to notions of truth. It is here the surveilled image indicates a direct, rather than arbitrary, connection between a sign and its referent. This unique relationship creates potential for the medium to produce artefacts that testify through their physical presence, rather than pictorial representation, to the exposure having taken place. 

When, considered only as images, despite their apparently immediate, natural and non-mediated relation to what they represent, photographs function as culturally coded signs that operate in a sphere of meanings that are entirely human. The problem with this mode of analysis is it privileges the theory or audience who builds the system of meaning, rather than the practitioners as creative producers of or active participants in knowledge creation.

The photographic ‘object’ is often designed and considered to fix the visible with results that are usually interpreted in terms of meaningful visual signs exclusively from the perspective of a disembodied spectator. David Abram notes this exclusion of ecological positioning is located in modern Western tendencies to abandon dynamic interactions between human and non-human in favour of technologies. The result is not only a distancing of self from other, but also a significant loss of an embodied perception. Abram notes:  

Transfixed by our technologies, we short-circuit the sensorial reciprocity between our breathing bodies and the bodily terrain. Human awareness folds in upon itself, and the senses – once the crucial site of our engagement with the wild and animate earth – become mere adjuncts of an isolate and abstract mind bent on overcoming an organic reality that now seems disturbingly aloof and arbitrary. (Abram 1997: 267)  

Can the disembodiment and the mechanization of the mechanized and disembodies surveillance gaze be challenged by a revisioning or re-looking at surveillance images? Emphasising the physical and material value of the image highlights a move beyond the mere representational passive, static gaze and engagement with subject. That it, it is possible through photographic processes to produce an embodied entity that actively participates in the surrounding world and go beyond the constraints of the apparatus yielding predictable visual results. Photographs can be open to chance occurrences that manifest, for example in the digitalising of Pratt’s glass sides we are able to see the random pattern of markings, scratches and bleaching resulting from post-processing handling. Re-visiting Pratt’s images in combinations with new technologies incites new investigations with reconfiguring of past knowledge and stimulates new ways of knowing (and making) that includes a deeper understanding and engagement with phenomena of the moment of capture and considerations of looking.

ANZAC Mules WWI (Charles Pratt)



On his return to Egypt, one of these life changing opportunities came in the form of a request from the Royal Flying Corps for volunteers to learn to fly. Early in the war it was thought that it would be essential for fliers to come from the better educated classes, however it was found that better education has little to do with motor skills and that good horsemen and cycle riders had these. (Reilly, p.3 2016)

Pratt’s upward mobility into the air was not only a physical one but also signified a rise in class. He migrated through technology from a physical presence in the heat of battle into an emerging form of mobile surveillance that, at this initiating phase, required body centred knowledge and acumen. The prestige gap between what was considered the second-rate education system of the Mechanics Institutes and the Technical School for trades and crafts (Preston, 2005) compared to the Secondary School system and the elitism of the tertiary training available to the monied and privileged classes is breached by the necessities of war. Interestingly, on his settlement in Geelong Pratt re-connected locally with his photographic craft through the Photographic Club at what was then Gordon College.

It is productive to explore how a trace of such a class system re-asserts itself in emergent contemporary contested technological fields. A gap between technology and the body is extended, for example, in contemporary war machines. Satellite images of the Ukraine/Russian border documented the amassing of troops and at the other polar end of this gap all men between 18 and 60 are conscripted to physically defend Ukraine. Missiles launched from the safety of Russian Screens hundreds of miles away are more effective than Russia’s bogged down on the ground conscripted troops. Pilotless drones search a contemporary sky embedded with foreboding and fear.

On the ground before his aerial call Pratt’s photographs documented ships of ANZAC soldiers in transit to Gallipoli from Mudros Bay, Lemnos. He photographed the tents on Waterfall Gully on Bauchop’s Hill, on the Gallipoli Peninsula. This location was taken by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles on 6 August 1915 to clear the Turks out of the foothills. Pratt’s image notes it as near ANZAC Cove where the main landing occurred on April 25, 1915, the foundation event used to mark Australian and New Zealand nationalism and celebrated on that date on ANZAC Day. This Gallipoli Campaign cost the Allies 187,959 killed and wounded and the Turks 161,828. Gallipoli proved to be the Turks’ greatest war victory, for which a 40 year old Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty and in control of his colonial forces, carried a culpability and guilt into the Second World War. The wounded were tended in the erected hospitals on the Greek island, Lemnos from which Pratt had documented their departure. Of his photographs of Mules at No. 2 Post near Bauchop’s Hill; are these a trace to the mythic donkey Simpson used to cart wounded soldier’s to safety?

Pratt’s role, for which he remains invisible, in documenting such on the ground events, has become redundant. Contemporary I-phone images of bombings and mutilation spin war atrocities around the world, in constant surveillance machine churn to be processed by an audience framed through the headless crowd mentality Gustave le Bon identifies in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895).

Pratt’s invisible trajectory through surveillance and photography that skirts contemporary issues of truth, nationalism and history is traceable through his technical knowledge and achievements.

Charles Pratt was a quiet retiring almost shy type of person, as related by those who know him. One of those who stayed at the back of a group rather than hold court despite his achievements. (Reilly, p.1 2016)



 … [to] make sense of reality, to re-construct and present it in a way that seduces the observer into a re-examination into seeing the relevance of those things that had previously been hidden or unobserved? (Yates 2007: 164)

Crashed German Rumbler

Pratt’s aerial images have a temporal and durational framework, specifically the duration of the investigation of the site and place, and the coding of this into material and mechanical media. By revisiting these historic images, we may be able to refocus attention on the moment of time as well as the exploration of history through the lens of contemporary understandings. As we look out from afar, we see grid formats as dark and light spaces appear and disappear.  Having glimpses of open fields, the ocean, or the roadside, we experience a brief moment of grounding, only to turn around again when we contemplate the horizon from a distance.

Despite being captured from a distance, this view appears familiar and intimate, as if we know the Geelong townships and these roads. I wonder what difference a contemporary drone capture or Google images will make compared to this perspective.  In these works, I am intrigued by the chemical-based photographic technologies at play rather than the distancing, fixed gaze, or decisive moment that traditional considerations of documentary or monocular photo vision suggest. My thoughts turn to the incidental-happens that mark the emulsions of the prints add to the narrative.  Each image contains a physical, tactile mediation embedded in their surfaces that entices me to look again, resulting in a sense of extension to the story.  I do not direct my gaze by preconceived contexts of a city, landscape or event when re-looking and considering the tactile imprints in the final images. I am drawn in by the simulated relationship between the terrain and past memories of melancholy.  As a maker, I am interested in this way of looking, knowing, of being, that is revealed through the making; Pratt’s images promote this act of material and intra-activeness as an agency of encounter. My attitude and observations are informed by the photographic performance that Pratt’s images promote.

This re-look is not intended to (re)record or (re)document a particular moment, but rather to respond to pictures of landscape, happenings and process. It explores representations of landscapes and happenings and their surveillance, emphasizing and visualizing the physical, mental, and spatial aspects of emotional response.  This is where, for me, notions of surveillance and aesthetics extend.  It is no secret that surveillance recordings are now an integral part of our daily media experience.  Terrain and satellite images of war atrocities from the Ukraine are broadcast on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. These images inform our news streams and cancel culture. Images and trends are captured by amateurs to inform, entertain, and educate. In addition to immediate viewership and collaboration, viewers can instantly respond, discuss, and express themselves.  New media and notions of landscape images have changed in the way we interact with them, and one part of this shift has been the reliance on perceptions of surveillance. Pratt’s aerial and landscape images contribute to the exploration of this by way of contemporary revisioning and understandings.

3 Flying boats in Corio Bay 1927


Abram, D 1997, The spell of the sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world, New York: Vintage Books. 

Preston, Lesley “Second Rate? Reflections on South Tech and Secondary Technical Education 1960-90”, Doctoral thesis, Faculty of Education, The University of Melbourne 2005.

Reilly, Kevin M. 2016 Charles Pratt of Belmont Common: a life in the air, Dingley Village.

Sontag, S. (1977). On photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Yates, A 2007, ‘Looking and listening’, Pichler, B and Slanar, C (eds) 2007, James Benning. Österreichisches Filmmuseum.

Dirk de Bruyn (1,3)

Wendy Beatty (2,4)

Let’s talk about Expanded Cinema


Do we overlook what’s in front of us because there’s a hole in the centre?

A.A. Phillips’ seminal essay on the cultural cringe first appeared in Meanjin in 1950, describing an internalised inferiority complex … The cringe’s historical origins lie in the material reality of colonialism … Colonists denied and evicted the cultures of this continent’s custodians and supplanted it with their own. That process cemented a displacement of culture at Australia’s heart … When we talk about the cultural cringe, we’re really talking about the colonial cringe … Lauren Carroll Harris (2020)

Expanded cinema is a little-known practice that arose in the late 1960s. It has a limited but devoted international audience but is barely known in Australia. In a year-long dialogue with Melbourne scholar and artist Dirk de Bruyn (see note 1) about local practice, I learnt of his emphatic agreement with the legacy of displacement Lauren Carroll Harris points out. Expanded cinema has been and continues to be a vibrant component of Australian creative practice, taking place right under our noses, yet those of us in the business of cultural circulation have chosen to persistently overlook it. Understanding why was the motivation for Dirk, myself and some colleagues[i] to meet regularly last year. 

I must start by explaining expanded cinema. It combined movie technology with live events, literally expanding cinema beyond immersive stories on a single big screen. In Annabel Nicolson’s Reel Time (1973), the film literally wound its way through the room while it was punctured by Nicolson’s sewing machine, then projected, while another artist read aloud from the machine manual. In Malcolm Le Grice’s Castle 1 (1966), the image of re-edited newsreel footage was intermittently obliterated by flashes from a large light bulb hung adjacent to the screen. In Anthony McCall’s Line Describing a Cone (1973), smoke in the room made a 3D cone from the projected film image of a line making a circle, the audience moving around inside the cone and its smoke. 

These examples come from British artists. In the UK, effort to remember this work by curators, scholars and institutions has been underway for some time, a similar situation across other parts of Europe and the US. 

What about in Australia? I can expand my definition using local works citing 2007 research from artist and scholar Danni Zuvela, evidence there has been some research into the situation here. Zuvela’s definition includes Poem 25 (David Perry and Albie Thoms, 1965) in which a performer faces the projector bulb, caught in the cone of the projection, reading (or shouting, Zuvela 2007, 9) out numbers as they appear as white words on the black 16mm film: ‘two, twenty, four’. Also part of her definition is Boiling Electric Jug Film (Arthur and Corinne Cantrill, 1970) in which an  electric kettle sat on stage coming to the boil with a film of the same image (Zuvela 2007, 9). To round out Zuvela’s picture, I add Jeffrey Shaw’s Corpocinema (1967) involving an inflatable dome for projection (Duguet, Klotz & Weibel 1997, 11); and Hugh McSpedden’s light shows shown on Melbourne beaches during hot nights in which he took his set of Hokushin 16mm projectors in his modified van and projected dots and colours over night time beach goers. 

Our 2021 expanded cinema dialogues resolved that Australian audiences should know about this stuff. Back in 2007, Zuvela was motivated by a flurry of international programming of both contemporary and historical expanded cinema to wonder, as we did, what about Australia? (Zuvela 2007, 14).  Our group spoke about evident continuities between historic Australian practice and contemporary exhibitions like Sally Golding’s at Metro Arts in 2020.

What follows are three angles we explored in our dialogue about why attention has been so limited in Australia. 

Is Australian expanded cinema not known because the works are not collected nor preserved and the records are poor? Our dialogues identified archiving as a problem. These works were and are made as part of raucous events or ‘nights’. Hived off in the archives as items to preserve, as some of them have been in programs like those at the Tate Tanks (Gronlund 2009), are they stranded from that contact with the program and communities that produced them?

Is Australian expanded cinema work known but ignored due to its limited aesthetic power? Disheartenment is a factor here. Dirk shared his experience in a recent project to digitise uncollected Melbourne experimental films (not the same as expanded cinema, but many makers made both). He noticed the makers were suspicious and incredulous there could now be an audience for work they literally garaged a long time ago. Thus they were reluctant to actually hand over their films.

Or is Australian expanded cinema vaguely known but not talked about, slightly embarrassing, a local version of better stuff that happened in Europe and America? Zuvela noted that in Australia it is saddled with ‘psychedelic connotations’ that make it ‘critically unattractive’ to scholars of Australian film (2007, 13-14). 

But in conversation with Dirk, we also identified evidence of the cringe Lauren Carroll Harris writes about. Several times over Dirk and I dwelled on the reality that expanded cinema happens/happened here. Could the denial about it be a pertinent example of this deeper denial? Over to Dirk to get into some productive discomfort to tease this out.


A Circular Path

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago. Pete Seeger (1958)

I sit in front of a blank page and I try to invoke the erased, denied and ignored memories of my own practice and community which straddles both performance and cinema experimentation. These traces are cradled in the volunteer developmental, curatorial and infrastructure projects undertaken from the 70s on till now, not my more recent academic work. There has been no interest emerging from there and that is one of the roadblocks. Until now, Louise?

Melbourne events, particularly, have fallen through the gaps. Further, as Jonathan Walley intimated on the AAANZ panel, it is in the elusive performative register where the expanded cinema sits that effuses the most precarious invisibilities. Yet this situation also produces a fertile site ready for re-colonisation and re-classification by a forward-looking next generation.

The precarity of Australian Expanded Cinema is doubled up by the marginal position of the Australian Experimentation generally (or whatever it is elusively named- Personal Cinema, Artist Film, Avant Garde, non-narrative etc), which I mark as outside the outside or at the margins of the margin. Such double negatives express a particularly Australian traumatic colonial legacy: ‘we of the never never’, ‘never say never’ or ‘Australia is not a bad place to be’. This way of thinking relates to Judith Herman’s view of trauma: ‘The dialectic of trauma gives rise to complicated, sometimes uncanny alterations of consciousness, which George Orwell, one of the committed truth-tellers of our century, called “doublethink”, and which mental health professionals, searching for calm, precise language, call “dissociation.”’ (Herman, 1992 p.1)

The history of Expanded Cinema in Australia is a traumatic contested space, that requires a re-narrativization. Zuvela’s welcome work barely scratches the surface. It does not challenge what has fallen from the record, especially in Melbourne. For example: What about James Clayden, Chris Knowles’ musical performances, Lynsey Martin’s High School slide projections. Jo Hampton, David Cox, and Chris Mann’s performances. Chris and David both ‘escaped’ to America. There is also Peter Tammer’s 20 minute (1983-5) Triptych of My Belle, Hey Marcel…, Queen of the Night. I have written elsewhere that Cantrills Filmnotes has historically and visibly marked the practice of its publishers, while those often documented in its pages remain invisible. (de Bruyn, 2014)

Hugh McSpedden’s beach projections are also the tip of an Iceberg. He is recognised as “god-father” for Gertrude St Projection Festival. As Edison Light Company from (1968-80) he, with Michael Lee as assistant, provided projections at the legendary TF Much Ballroom gigs at Central Hall, Fitzroy for bands such as Daddy Cool, Tully, Spectrum, Lipp and the Double Decker Brothers, Tamad Shud. Is this the hippiedom that Zuvela identifies as critically un-attractive to scholars?

After creative presentations in Belgrade, Zagreb, Karlsruhe, Jena, The Hague, Lisbon and Vienna I no longer situate Australian Expanded Cinema practice in a derivative echo of a British or American avant-garde Canon that processes Australian presence as marginal, second-hand, derivative or lagging. Internationally, the story is more ambiguous and infected with ‘double-speak”. Mihovil Pansini, one of the founders of the Festival of Experimental Film (GEFF 1963 -1970) in Zagreb, his formalist washed-out K3 (cloudless sky) (1963) makes Peter Gidal’s later Clouds (1969) seem illusionist and derivative in comparison.

And finally, is it more productive to identify with those forces that have shaped indigenous culture and critically interrogate the impact of the settler’s colonial eye? When I read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, he finds evidential traces of a denied sophistication and depth of indigenous culture, registered in the diaries of the first settlers and explorers like Mitchell and Sturt. In the next step of their own settlement and loyalty to Empire this settler class buried and ignored this knowledge of village life, extended housing and land management that had evolved over thousands of years. Why do we keep doing that to ourselves?



What, however, might a contemporary Australian practice be that visits the avant-garde of the ‘old country’ head on, not temporally, as mimetic descendent, but spatially as coevally related? This would primarily be a spatial practice, its consciousness of its own relationship to an earlier avant-garde an explicit and integral contingent component of the work. Perhaps something like the performance practice of Louise Curham and Lucas Ihlein’s Teaching and Learning Cinema (TLC) project (Ball 2016).

Steven Ball is writing about Australian artists bringing their wares to London. This is all about me in so far as I am one half of TLC with my colleague artist and scholar Lucas Ihlein. But this also not about me at all, it’s about ways to tell the story of expanded cinema in our region.

What’s caught Ball’s attention is that TLC and the other two artists he writes about in this article, Sally Golding and Sue K, have up-ended a long standing cultural model in which there is a well worn path taking Australian art to northern hemisphere cities, perceived as centres. Recognition there means acceptance as good art back in Australia. Ball quotes Terry Smith (1974) on New York as the centre of the art world.  Ball is saying that TLC, Golding and Sue K up-end that: rather than a model where London is the centre and Australia is the periphery, less good because it’s far away, instead distance is a useful condition that enables different and productive relationships. 

Dirk has called for a new narrative that allows Australian expanded cinema to circulate. The spatial approach Ball uses might be part of the solution. 

Ball writes about relationships that are ‘coevally related’, finding coevalness in writing by cultural geographer Doreen Massey (Massey finds it in the writing of anthropologist Johannes Fabian (1983)). The colonial story of progress (the story of modernity as Massey puts it) involves a normative path where some societies (the colonisers) are ahead on the path and others are behind (the colonised). Instead, if they are coeval, they face each other with space as the key dynamic rather than a narrative of progress, establishing and maintaining it as a norm.  A spatial model undercuts judgement against a norm. In facing each other in a coeval relationship, ‘“ a stance of recognition and respect in situations of mutual implication … an imaginative space of engagement” ‘ can be adopted, Massey quoted in Ball, 2016. Massey calls it an attitude. 

Coevalness has merit to overcome the denial Dirk graphically explained. Going a bit further than Ball, TLC is instructive as an example of how coevalness might work for telling expanded cinema history in our region.

Ball writes about TLC’s work re-enacting British cinema. Why did two Australians put some growth rings around some British history rather than re-telling, and therefore strengthening, Australian work? Ball reports Lucas on this point: why should TLC have to carry the can for Australian culture? I’d add that TLC’s decisions were driven by aesthetics and curiosity, we were both intrigued by work that arose from the London Film Makers’ Co-op. We were also aware that to make sense of these works, experience of them was required, not documentation. 

However, part of the reason we could focus outside Australia was that we spent time learning about some Australian work and others were bringing it to local audiences. 

OtherFilm brought re-enactments and performances such as Poem 25, Cantrills expanded cinema, film performance by Australian artists such as Dirk. 

Our explorations into Australian work included sitting down with Jeffrey Shaw, David Perry and the Cantrills to explore an exhibition of British and Australian expanded cinema. We concluded an institution needed to do it, our effort was better spent generating experiences for our community.  TLC screenings included artists’ film as well as expanded works eg Joan Grounds came along when we showed her collaboration ‘We should call it a living room …’ (1975); we organised an evening with Mike Leggett showing his Image Con Text work (1978-2005) and some of his very early work with Ian Breakwell. 

From this TLC experience, some qualities of coevalness are detectable: 

space of engagement: we actually did this work and brought it before audiences

an attitude of recognition: we had a hunch it was important

and some glimpses of mutual implication: we knew/know it’s part of a bigger story. 

So where does that leave us? Coevalness offers a spatial way to think about relationships and therefore history. Ball used it effectively in his article and it has potential for history telling in our region. In our 2021 expanded cinema dialogues Dirk and I were part of that I referred to in my first post, we talked methods to tell the history. Cathy Fowler, in dialogue with Sally Golding, identified ethnographic methods as relevant, bringing more than one account, avoiding establishing a canon (and therefore a norm). 

Part of the answer to overcoming denial and oversight is quite practical: tell these stories non-hierarchically, with more than one voice as Cathy and Sally identified. Draw on coevalness via Ball via Massey (via Fabian 1983), so they are in relation to each other and work in other parts of the world (mutually implicated, in a space of engagement) but without judgement against a norm. 

This process of overcoming denial will feel forced and strange initially. Be motivated by the 20 year olds of the future who need to stumble across this work and be inspired by it in their own way and in their own time.


From Colonial to Coeval Vistas

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that Canada as a whole is a victim, or an ‘oppressed minority’ or ‘exploited’. Let us suppose in short that Canada is a colony”. (Atwood, 1972)

The idea of Massey’s coeval that Louise introduces is a productive one that extends the detailed expression of Louise’s long running and durational TLC project with Lucas Ilhein. Her outline situates the Man with Mirror project as the tip of a Janus-faced iceberg. Where TLC’s (Wo)Man with Mirror faces and engages with an Expanded Cinema canonical work from the “old country”, as Ball calls his English home (As an Australian I nominate our indigenous past as the real “old country”), their community focus revives an array of precarious local work only remembered by a few. Unfortunately the centralised funding structures, funding Australian Art Practice impacted TLC’s ability to manage this important cultural work. Curham’s current interest in Australian Expanded cinema extends and vitalizes this thread. TLC’s engaged history places Curham at a turning point for the re-narrativization of this contested space.

The precarity of Australian Expanded Cinema history is uncannily reflected in Steven Ball’s incisive cultural work both in Australia and England. His work on innovative film in Australia which included co-ordination of the Melbourne Super 8 Group, the performance of Un-Australian with Nicole Skeltys and myself and other performances and screenings at Café Bohemio (all important experiences that expanded my own creative practice). Ball’s management and cultural developmental skills were never institutionally rewarded in Australia with long-term employment, whereas on his return to London his commitment was quickly identified at St. Martin’s Artist Film and Video Archive by David Curtis. It is also worth mentioning Mike Leggett’s migration to Australia in 1988 with his partner Deborah Ely. Knowledge of Mike as a seminal figure with his conceptual experimental works at the London Film-maker’s Co-op, recognised by TLC, is not generally known in Australia, whilst his knowledgeable ground-breaking work with New and Interactive Media in Australia makes the case for a historical connection between both old and new media practices that Malcolm Le Grice stressed in Experimental Film in the Digital Age (2001)

The responses to colony by Canadians, writer Atwood and theorist Harold Innis, provide a useful parallax to examine Australia’s marginal cultural position. In Survival Atwood names four victim positions for individuals and national groups. These partly echo Franz Fanon’s three stages in the development of Third World colonial art. This moves from the native intellectual adopting the coloniser’s culture, through the past being romanticized but one’s fate remaining inevitable, to where you identify your victim position but refuse its cage. For Atwood these are: denial of victimization, general victimization and righteous anger. Atwood adds a fourth empowering position to Fanon’s trinity, that of the creative non-victim, one also taken up by Feminist Cinema in the 1970s. Victor/victim games are obsolete. Otherwise, as my friend Tony Beilby texted me “…one becomes one’s abuse…”. This is the view that Pascoe moves into (as do filmmakers Ana Vaz and Cauleen Smith) and that a revitalized history of Australian Expanded Cinema needs to develop. Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines also connects indigenous memory paths to Ley Lines and nomadic Arabic knowledge systems.

Harold Innis, Canadian communications theorist (the Bias of Communication (1951)) and mentor to Marshall McLuhan’s media thinking argued that Canada, to evolve culturally, needed to accentuate technologies of time (e.g Song, Film, performance) to counter the bias of technologies of space (e.g. Telegraph, Television, Internet) that the United States used to dominate Canadian culture. This is an argument for de-centralization and an embrace of the local.

I understand this as the point that Ilhein and Curham make with their (Wo)Man with Mirror. Their framing delivers the work’s visceral impact through a well ordered DIY script. There are examples of Man  with Mirror performances documented online on YouTube (Space Biased) but when you hear everyone in the audience react simultaneously, you do not feel or understand why. When you are physically present, the impact of Sherwin’s performance (Time Biased) viscerally reaches your body-centred perceptual apparatus at the same time as every other audience member. Does this view run counter to Massey’s stressing of the importance of space in enabling a coeval approach? A coeval approach disintegrates space. I suggest that a dialogic approach through its gaps produces a de-centralised space, is critical to both Innis and Massey and was one of the outcome insights of AAANZ panel discussions for me and present in Curham’s design for the panel dialogue. Canadian film-maker Mike Hoolboom’s multi-voiced book on the history of Toronto’s Funnel “Underground: The untold story of the Funnel Film Collective similarly points a way forward. Australian Expanded Cinema needs such considered multi-voiced TLC.


Atwood, Margaret, 1972 Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, Toronto: House of Asansi Press.

 Ball, Steven. 2016. ‘Beyond the Cringe: Australia, Britain, and the Post-Colonial Film Avant-Garde’. Sense of Cinema, no. 78 (March).

Carroll Harris, Lauren. 2020. ‘The Arts Crisis and the Colonial Cringe’. Kill Your Darlings, 15 October 2020.

Duguet, Anne-Marie, Heinrich Klotz, and Peter Weibel, eds. 1997. Jeffrey Shaw: A User’s Manual, from Expanded Cinema to Virtual Reality = Jeffrey Shaw: Eine Gebrauchsanweisung, Vom Expanded Cinema Zur Virtuellen Realität. Ostfildern: Cantz.

Fabian, J. (1983) Time and the Other: how anthropology makes its object. New York: Columbia University Press.

Golding, Sally. 2020. Assembly Now. Metro Arts, Brisbane, exhibition 30 Sep to 14 Oct 2020.

Gronlund, Melissa. 2009. ‘Define Intervention – Melissa Gronlund at a Tate Modern Conference on Expanded Cinema’. Artforum International, 6 May 2009.

Harris, Lauren Carroll (2020)  ‘The Arts Crisis and the Colonial Cringe’, 15 Oct 2020, Kill Your Darlings

Herman, Judith. Trauma and Recovery. New York. Basic Books. 1992

Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space, London: Sage Publications, 66-70.

Zuvela, Danni. 2007. ‘“Yes, but How Do We Place You?” Expanded Cinema in Australia’. Brisbane: Griffith University.


(Note 1) These meetings were preparation for the Art Association of Australia and NZ 2021 conference panel, Let’s talk about expanded cinema. Meeting participants included Dirk De Bruyn, Louise Curham, Cathy Fowler, Sally Golding, Jonathan Walley and Mark Williams.

Louise  Curham (1,3)

Dirk de Bruyn (2,4)

Louise Curham is an archivist, media artist and researcher lecturing in the School of Information and Communication Studies at Charles Sturt University,