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An island is both an optical and an imperialist conceit. It is a way of regarding and classifying something as remote, as foreign, as unfamiliar. For an island to adhere to our existing expectations of it as a site – to expectations that have been shaped by western literature, western films, western pop culture – it must remain unfamiliar and unknowable. The islands that occupy our cultural consciousness exist outside ‘society’ as it has been construed within a civic space; they are inhabited by strange and surreal creatures; they are dark and dangerous. They are places in which we get lost and in which we may lose ourselves. Jurassic Park, Gulliver’s Travels, the TV show Lost, Lord of the Flies, Shutter Island, Robinson Crusoe, Eat Pray Love. Islands are places where things come undone, where the real begins to erode. They are - by nature and by extension - a kind of mirage. How then do we ‘image’ an island? That question, I feel, is the pivot point of this exhibition. Having been called upon to respond to the show, I must attempt to offer my own answer. I must push at the edge, as it were, of the subject in question. This address is going to be appropriately circuitous. Please bear with me as I indulge a narrative tangent. While we are spoilt for choice when searching for an allegorical illustration of the island as other – as alien – it is in the novella The Invention of Morel, written in 1940 by Argentinian Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jorge Luis Borges’ close friend and collaborator, that we find a concise explication of the island as a kind of optical illusion. As a mirage. Bioy Casares’ novella centres on the plight of a self-exiled protagonist seeking refuge on a secluded island to escape imprisonment for an unidentified crime. The island is unoccupied, its terrain allegedly infected with a virus that eats human skin. Undeterred, the protagonist makes himself at home. But the island isn’t uninhabited. A group of people, dressed as if they were living in the 1920s, appear suddenly one day and populate the once empty buildings. Tea for two is played over and over again as the insipid backdrop to their seemingly endless garden party. At first, the protagonist hides and observes these unexpected guests from afar. He notices a woman – Faustine – who returns each evening to a rocky outcrop to watch the sunset. He falls in love with her.

Profile for ANU School of Art & Design Gallery

Vanishing Point  

Vanishing Point Consuelo Cavaniglia, Ellen Dahl, Yvette Hamilton, Taloi Havini & Salote Tawale Main Gallery 16 May - 14 June 2019

Vanishing Point  

Vanishing Point Consuelo Cavaniglia, Ellen Dahl, Yvette Hamilton, Taloi Havini & Salote Tawale Main Gallery 16 May - 14 June 2019

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