John A. Douglas – Strange Land Vol I

  14 August – 7 November 2010

Featuring Sari TM Kivinen & Liam Benson, 2010
Original soundtrack by Debra Petrovitch

Strange Land Vol 1 is a multi-channel video installation, featuring performances by western Sydney artists Sari T. M. Kivinen and Liam Benson that relives the cultural histories of the Blue Mountains area through the retelling of historic narratives. The work is the result of an on-going research project by media artist John A. Douglas who, interested in exploring notions of place, investigates the residual traces of history that remain once a vibrant industrial settlement dissipates into a ghost town.

Born out of a national need for fuel, the New South Wales town of Glen Davis became an industrial shale mining town from 1932 until the mines closed in 1952. In 1978, Glen Davis was selected for the filming of the Australian cult classic The Chain Reaction (directed by Ian Barry and starring Steve Bisley). Subsequently, the historical remnants of a once thriving industrial town have become interwoven with the narratives of 1970s Australian film.

Sari T. M. Kivinen explores the nature of women’s work in the domestic sphere as well as in the workplace. She offers an interpretation of women’s stories gathered from the town of Glen Davis, while also including a re-enactment drawn from one of the characters in The Chain Reaction.

Drawing upon the 1976 film The Devils Playground, (directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Simon Burke, John Diedrich, Arthur Dignam, John Frawley, Nick Tate and Thomas Keneally) Liam Benson’s performance is based on the tragic and mysterious story of a young novice priest whose ghost, reputably, still haunts the mine site.

Complied as a database of video files, and presented as three projections, Strange Land Vol 1 provides an endless combination of constructed narratives that blend facts with fiction and interpretation in the reinvention of historical stories. Consequently, Strange Land Vol 1 is an investigation into the historical significance of the remote Blue Mountains location of Glen Davis and its subsequent relevance to the formation of an Australian cultural history.

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