As you might have read in Dom’s post of a couple of days ago, we’ve had to cut short the current leg. This has me writing this entry here from home, in Footscray.
Dom’s post of yesterday, detailing the trip back and arriving ‘home,’ seems to have a pertinent basis for what I’ll share today about the project or the ‘walk’. Dom suggestion that the ‘walk’ goes beyond the act of walking, being something larger, a new state of mind – has been entered. Dom states that he entered the walk as a ‘beginner,’ hoping to learn through embarking on something he has no knowledge of – not able to possess knowledge of in not actually knowing what is to be traversed. Here I think of the Pilgrimage as detailed in Paulo Coelho’s text of the same name. I read it a number of years ago. Dom has also likened Walking Slowly Downhill to a pilgrimage which has the obvious connection to walking but also the idea of an undertaking or embarking on a non-literal path. A space that through it’s simplicity teaches us something.
The physical trip of leaving Milang on Friday had me drive to Marong, just outside Bendigo. Stopping overnight there and taking the van to Mulwala yesterday seemed ironically, all but simple. Coasting down a hill with WSD behind me, I looked at the caravan brake controller mounted under my dashboard to see how much power was being applied to the caravan brakes. These ‘secondary’ brakes are very useful in helping stop comfortably, what is a lot of weight on the road. What I saw when I looked was ‘short circuit – no brakes’ illuminated in an appropriate glowing red. Thankfully the reality was with my van doing all the breaking, I only needed to brake much earlier and the ‘rig’ was still largely drivable. Dom hasn’t mentioned what I call the ‘phantom’ lock of the caravan either where, you shut the caravan door inexplicably locks itself. The first time we noticed this, Dom thought I had locked him out which consequently had him breaking in through the fly wire. Unfortunately for me, every window was locked but I ultimately ‘fished’ out my keys off the table inside through prying open the corner of the door, all with the help of ‘Ray’ who lived in his caravan next door.
Heading off and reaching Maiden Gully, I was desperate for petrol. Lacking adequate breaking and noticing entry to a service station was not possible via the right turn I was about to initiate, I likely broke a few road rules and kept heading straight, somehow managing to slow enough, turning right into the servo’s entrance – designed for traffic turning left from the opposite direction. After filling up with diesel, I pulled up at the air compressor to check my tyres and met an older man who asked the commonly refrained “Where are you headed?” We had a great chat and I learnt a lot about how I’ve been managing ‘the rig,’ this man obviously very experienced in such things. Now driving in 5th (which someone else advised against) and caravan van tyres 15psi higher than they had been, WSD and I were now truly cruising up towards Yarrawonga-Mulwala. I think what I’m getting at here is a long winded analogy. In fact, that’s exactly what it is. I’d could go on a length about Deborah who manages the caravan park in Mulwala but perhaps her story has just begun in likely being back up there in a few weeks – and that’s just talking about her amazing sun glasses – but my dear friends, I was taking about the journey.
I find myself here at home in Footscray wondering about the next leg of my life’s journey, just as unknown as the road Dom speaks of, that of the guide and teacher. In finishing Uni, perhaps the otherwise open–endedness of my situation is just part of ‘my road’ now and, not so much like a feeling of a road has slowly disappearing without a defined linearity of a degree (for example) to steer one’s direction. I’ve learn’t a lot from both academia and, part of ‘my road’ as lead by ‘the road’ Dom speaks of. I must go now and literally walk – both Harry and a new addition to the house ‘Pippa’ – looking forward to what the road reveals for us all.
Dom mentioned in his post today beach-type shacks here in the new WSD encampment of Milang. He said something about miniature inhabitants of a non-town but I had a different perspective.
I was reminded of Avalon Beach near Geelong. This of course had me barraging yet another poor victim about the first Mad Max film apparently shot there. Avalon Beach has an outsider like sensibility. A nature I find appealing. I’m also drawn to likely, the asbestos cladding that gives the dwellings a particular character and has them of a particular time.
I’d fully live in one.
After making a salad roll for us both, I drove Dom out near Jervios. It’s sort of like the area before Mildura (e.g. Colignan) with industry butting up against the river but with much more cow shit and evidence of Europeans having been around for a longer period.
I never really drink during the day if I have something to achieve afterwards but today both heat and curiosity got the better of me. I’ve had a memory of Tailem Bend detailing myself and, then girlfriend, Penny passing through the town in 1994. I was 21, Penny 18 and we were on our way to Perth in my old Holden. There was a ‘dusty badlands’ type of feeling to the visit and you felt like you were on the fringe of society. Tailem Bend really is a ‘highway town’ but perhaps unique in that the Princess Hwy isn’t the Main Street but it was never diverted either, like of so many other towns.
There the Main Street is sandwiched between the highway and railway line. The highway is sandwiched between the Main Street and the tall cliffs of the river.
Anyway, I went in for a beer at the Pub in the Main Street – it was the same public bar we sat at 21 years ago. The aged nature of the space struck me then and I was glad to find not much had changed since. As it happened, not long after arriving in Perth Penny and I broke up and we haven’t seen each oher since. The experience though has otherwise endured and, as a point of reference, I realise I’ve learnt a hell of a lot.
With a beer in my hand I sat there wondering. What life Penny had made for herself and also hoping, that life has treated her well.
He said it was amazing, actually understanding the meaning behind the markings and also, that it was unfortunate that the remaining ‘remains’ could not be exhumed. Adding to this, he suggested to the Indigenous guides that they should share this ‘knowledge’ so that others like him could picture our people connected to what he probably imagined as a pre-colonial idea of the Blackfella rather than he states as “people you see getting drunk on the street or living in humpies.”
Lucky I just had my morning coffee in that to then speak about my Aboriginality and later my art practice, our conversation went on for a while. He was a nice guy though. Naive but genuinely nice. Here its easy to complain about his views or more specifically, his stereotypes – and I think I did well to dispel much of them – but an anger directed at him would have only be misdirected. He is a product of his generation and that of the cultural hegemony surrounding that generation, a product of those that came before him and arguably, that of Imperialism.
Alternately, claiming some ‘understanding’ of our Culture as example – a incongruence forms when our actions are otherwise untrue, in relation to both ‘us’ and that of us all. This guy might have been naive but I sensed his spirit was true. It came out through his words no matter how based they were in the Colonial past, or even Colonial present. This sort of incongruence interests me and I think about the what might be ‘industries’ somewhat capitalising on this duality, or that of the ‘other.’
An early example might be the commodification of leisure. I’m no history buff but with the introduction of the 8 hour day, leisure became a ‘thing’ the capitalists saw they could exploit. You’re not really ‘relaxing’ without this product, this vacation, this mindset. Just having time to yourself and when not of the ‘man’ – was not enough – the capitalists wouldn’t have it and it was a ‘difference’ to exploit that ironically, they themselves thoroughly revelled in a ‘leisure’ made possible though through the labour and difference of others.
Later, this is perhaps seen in ‘Christmas’ – an example of something ‘good’ or ‘pure’ (if maybe of Christian faith) commodified and extended well beyond it’s original meaning – much to the glee of Capitalists and I can even add, the death of many workers in underdeveloped countries. More contemporarily, we now have ‘no time,’ working beyond the brief expected as norm, but the duality remains, ‘buying’ relief in the form of boutique Yoga classes, designer YOLO drinks and outdoor settings with names like ‘Serenity’, made by those same workers in China.
So to be seen for a cause or a ‘people’ with an ‘understanding’ or, through displaying good intentions – but otherwise the opposite through action, is not new either. Here I think of the many bogus charities exposed for exploiting the ‘image’ of the world’s impoverished for their own gain. The irony is many of the impoverished are as such due to Imperialism, displacing, disrupting, dividing and exploiting, simply because because they can. That’s what interests me but also what saddens me.
Returning to the walk, the project, and yes the van which is our camp for the next week allows reflection. This is not about the ‘serenity’ of the environment at all but though having formed a friendship with Dom. Over the last couple of months, I’ve spent more time with him (and on the project) than in Melbourne – much more of a disparate time. Many people and many movements.
Catching up gives the opportunity to check in on life it seems. To have conversations about things friends talk about – different matters of importance to each individual. Relationships, family, aspirations and musings of the past are commonly discussed. One’s ‘self’ is ‘reflected’ through being heard by another. So there’s a reflection. Also, when a conversation is finished, the reflection for me sometimes continues in solitude.
Perhaps the mood of this post is somewhat in line with that of having just finished my Master of Contemporary Arts too. A ‘space’ left by the vacation of thoughts that otherwise occupied my mind prior. A vacuum of sorts. I don’t feel guilty about having much more of this space but it feels a little foreign. It’s also a bit “hey! hello December 2015 me.” The mirror is seen now through the space otherwise occupied with ‘stuff.’ I have though been quite self-reflective over these past two years – maybe a cause for this ‘quality’ experienced now. The same reflection but in a new context, somewhat an experienced or state of mind ‘amplified.’
I joined Dom on the walk today for really the 2nd time since we begun in September. It’s not surprising people assume I do a lot – but I’m the guy that collects him at the conclusion of each walk so it’s not logistically possible. Well at least for the whole 15km. Today the start point was our camp so it was easy to walk what turned out to be about 4kms out of Mannum, to then walk back alone. It was great to be more active than usual and see ‘the land’ in a much different light to how it’s usually viewed. I like the detritus left by others – humans, animals.
Hey mate! Get off my arse!
Yeah what have ya!?
Excuse me, but are you referring to me?
Jeez you sound like a fucking poofter!
There’s no reason to be so close – the suggested distance is for a reason.
I don’t give a fuck faggot!
I think the issue here is not so much what initiated our conversation but something deeper.
Yeah what of it cock head?!
Look I’m doing the speed limit so to be so obviously aggressive, and I’m no psychologist, but it suggests their are issues that are effectively surfacing as this aggression. Just go around me perhaps.
I do what I fucking want mate – you’re lucky I don’t drive up your arse – you’d like that faggot.
Hi Folks. Dom and I spent yesterday moving the WSD caravan to Mannum (on our way towards Goolwa), the next logistically appropriate base for what I like to think of the ‘next leg’ of Dom’s walk. In finishing off my Masters, I return to Melbourne today for assessment to then return to S.A. in about a weeks time.
Anyway, I’ve been sitting on some images detailing the WSD installation within the ADFA building which, occurred over the Biennale weekend, and would like to share a couple now before I hit the road (they’ve forecast a big storm so eep)!
Enjoy this sneak peak and I’ll add some more later…
Yesterday was super hot here in Wiakerie and also an average day by all accounts. Dom’s walk began the east side of the town and he made it out past Waikerie by about 10 kms.
I finally came to photographing one of the bins emulating oranges which are scattered all over town. They are a fascinating urban landscape initiative that, on closer inspection, have the Lions Club logo on them. I’d suspect they were installed sometime in the 80’s, celebrating the major orange production that seems to happen in every direction from the town. In fact, Wiakerie claims to be ‘The citrus capital of Australia.’
I wonder about the workshop that fashioned these bins which lift open like a Pacman to reveal a small repository bin inside. I’m sure the garbos find emptying them a bit troublesome. Many of them look quite tired with dents, scratches and the odd one missing it’s lid. It could also be an idea for them to be ‘support’ for a fresh coat of paint… maybe individual designs from some of the locals. Better still, I think they should all be removed and used in an installation – there are that many of them – there number could be used to great effect. This updates the town’s rubbish disposal facilities which should (really) include recycling repositories too.
Look. I know the tax payer is part of the reason I’m in an 80’s caravan but I can’t be expected to be at their beck and call 24/7, can I? One is allowed some autonomy in this position right? Look at Tony Abbott – he virtually did what ever he wanted despite you guys paying him to be in that position too and look what umm… never mind but today I’ll admit it. I didn’t see Dom once. There’s been no map, no photo of him near a roadway nor even coffee to make him. Only thoughts about freeing restrained wildlife and my dear old friend Boris Groys.
Turns out Boris was born the same year as Dom. Same continent too – there’s some connection for you – but it’s more so his writing that turned my crank today at the Waikerie library. Sitting there for hours and I couldn’t help but get more of a sense of this ‘place.’ The library serves a number of local folk as it does a small population of young people who seem to be on the visa, where you pick the oranges. My theory behind the complete non-existence of power points in the library is because of the sucking of the internet teat that happens all day. To the library’s defence, they have dedicated teats outside that you can go for a suck of. It’s just out the back behind the bins.
Anyway, in the same library is a huge tapestry that was given to some guy by the Chinese population of Darwin in the early 1900’s. Turns out his family emigrated to Ireland in the 1600’s and they where Quakers. His son inherited said tapestry and somehow got a job at the council. Now that hangs on the wall next to a reproduction of the Apology. No not that one, which is bad because they only have the one you know, about the English sending children here. Because only the English live here, hence one apology. No, hang on I think many of the folk here are of German ancestry. Dom even made mention of the salads in the Pub having a Germanic touch. At the time, I concurred but the Parma’s – they’re def Aussie as. Even a version with Prawns. The Surf and battered Hen it’s called. Nah I made that one up – but they should call it that. Turns out the original pub burned down 2 years ago ;) … so now there’s heaps more room for more Pokies. Made heaps out of the build too. Mate. it’s awesome.
As Dom walked the highway yesterday, I did the rounds looking for a number of things for the project. From a drainage pipe for the Caravan to additional ‘padding’ to improve the quality of sleep in my van, I got to know Waikerie’s retail sector pretty well. After collecting Dom about halfway between Kingston on Murray and Waikerie, I left him to rest up at camp whilst I went to the civil side of Waikerie that being the Public Library. Planning to rendezvous for dinner, Dom and I walked to the Waikerie Hotel. We’ve actually been cooking a lot more lately which not only saves money but is arguably healthier. Dom’s ‘diet’ has been great to be exposed to and it’s safe to say I’m eating more healthily that I would do back in Melbourne.
The Pub was a nice venue and we both enjoyed some Garfish. A respectable two drinks each and we hit the trail home. I then spent some time making my new bed with an overlay that is designed to promote a better nights sleep. It actually fitted well despite the bed (my housemate and I made) having unorthodox dimensions – to best fit the van.
Dom sat and wrote away, as he usually does, as I prepared yesterday’s blog post. I actually intended to share a range of images I took of Dom cooking dinner the night before – acting very much like a guide – but I had lost them. I’ll do this again another time. I don’t know whether the the promise of comfort had anything to do with it but I was fading fast and retired for the night. It was very cosy.
Ironically, I woke up sometime in the early hours of the morning and pretty much stayed awake (or half asleep) for the rest of it. It wasn’t until the ‘drop off’ this morning that I was reminded of last night’s dream. On top of a Landcruiser travelling in the opposite direction were two ‘pet carriers.’ My initial reaction was hoping there were no animals inside but the sight then triggered the memory of my dream. I too had two pet carriers within it.
What I remember mostly was returning to my childhood home in Matilda Crt, Belmont. There was a flood and water came halfway up the side of my former house. It made sense I thought as being in a bit a a valley, there was likely a creek there before the area was colonised and ‘settled.’ Pondering what was happening, a cat came up to me brushing itself alongside my leg. “Was it lost?” I thought, or perhaps been stranded by the flood waters? Soon after a black cat came swimming through the water towards me. It was Cindy which was originally my sisters cat. When Cindy was ‘ alive’ she couldn’t meow because apparently, my then toddler sister tried to take her for a walk with a choker chain – damaging her voice box.
In addition to seeing her alive (she walked off into the paddocks to die in real life about 20 years ago) she meowed at me loud and clear. I screamed “Cindy!” for her to reply “Stevie!” She could not only meow again but managed to ‘meow’ a word being, my name. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy to see her and had wondered that she really didn’t wonder off to die all those years ago but walked back to her original home – waiting for our return. That’s when I thought of the two pet carriers, taking Cindy and the stranded cat away with me.
The rest of the night’s dreaming is to vague to recall now, like at the moment of seeing the carriers on the highway. I then dropped off Dom and took this photo from the drivers seat – returning just now to write this.
Dom ready for his walk (including two makeshift walking sticks).