WILDERNESS LAB: SITE-SPECIFIC STOCKHOLM SYNDROME
What happens when you fall in love with your captor? Working site-specifically a paradoxical psychological relationship develops where you really want to leave, you start longing for weird things usually available to you like the movies and KFC hot chips but at the same time the thought of leaving is horrible, everything seems far away and difficult to access.
Technically Point Nepean is not remote, its only 120 KM from Melbourne and there is a toll road but once we got there we were locked in, staying behind the Quarantine station, behind the Parks offices, behind three fences. We did not leave except for bare essentials. In doing so we tried to answer a few questions. How can we adapt ourselves to working in remote areas? As artists how can we be attentive to what is already present in a place. How do we engage with multiple and often conflicting historical narratives. How can we place ourselves in the footsteps of the audiences who might come here to see the art we make? How can we get to know and involve the communities who are here in generating the content of the artwork we are making? Simple.
To induce true cabin fever for two weeks we talked only to each other and received in-depth talks from many including local historical societies, ex-officers who were stationed at Point Nepean before serving in Vietnam and incredible seaside ecologist Gidja Walker among many other ghosts, pirates and Parks Officers who showed us around the danger zones. After a few days the world condenses into a tiny strip of land and the landscape becomes more vivid; trees are 600 years old, empty buildings filled with officers at grand ballroom dances and the beach home to both indigenous people who watched the first ships invade and later a boat full of Europeans racked by terrible fever. We fall in love with it and feel claustrophobic at the same time.
The inadequacy of an empirical Western approach to history become more obvious, the capacity of people to preface their own narratives over others, glaring. Various maps emerge; from the military perspective a grid of no-go zones to networks of threatened plants and ancient geological layers of limestone. It becomes clear that what we are all balancing is the dynamic of care for a landscape and access to it.
We start to understand that remoteness is relative both psychologically and culturally that the tourists visiting here it is the end of the Earth and that for those of us familiar with Australia, the bakery is just down the road.
Willow S. Weiland