Night’s High Noon: An Anti-Terrain

by Callas, Peter

1988

Duration
8
Exhibition
Figuring Landscapes

Created in reaction to Australia’s 1988 bicentenary celebrations, Night’s High Noon offers an interpretation of Australian history, identity and landscape antithetical to the official ‘Celebration of a Nation’.

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Proposing an ‘anti-terrain’, or flipside, of stereotypical notions of antipodean identity, the work presents a series of jarring, emblematic polarities beginning with the conflict over uranium mining on Indigenous land. Later, an Aboriginal child peering at the arrival of a British ship is juxtaposed with a 20th century white child about to be withered at the sight of a nuclear explosion over the ocean’s horizon (references to the British Empire’s impact on the native population of Australia and the French nuclear tests in the Pacific). Equally perplexed, a Van Gogh-like figure finds himself puzzling at a digitally duplicated portrait of himself whilst he incongruously loiters in front of a clump of Heysenesque gum trees. Peter Callas, 2008 This early work of Callas’s is chock-full of the iconographic symbols that came to define the fol¬lowing two decades. Completed in Australia’s bicentenary year, the video captures much of the tensions of that time, tensions that have continued to the present. Caught in a simple, graphic format, the ‘scenes’ establish a loose connection to art history – Hans Heysen’s gum trees, the image of van Gogh, rub grainily against renditions of Mornington Island dancers, Japanese manga, and Australia’s colonial history. Callas’s fascination with Australia’s role within the Asia-Pacific region can be seen, to some extent, as a harbinger of what was to follow. Pat Hoffie

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