Mondellimin Dreaming

I dreamt that I was in Japan. There was a large, bright light in the sky which seemed to make everything glow in an unusual yellowish aura, as if in some kind of Byzantine icon painting. Everyone around me was chanting one word - slowly, rhythmically, and in unison - 'Dharma' or 'Daruma' - I can't exactly be sure. But everyone was clearly aware that some important, possibly dangerous, celestial event was taking place. People were pointing toward the light and saying things to each other; some cried, some were hysterical.

Gradually, through the bright haze, I began to awake.

There was a split in the zip of my tent-fly, and through the small hole it created, the sun was streaming through in a little shaft, right onto my face.

 It was morning, and I was in my tent on the banks of the Murray River, near its junction with the Darling, at Mondellimin. This was the Aboriginal name of the site which, 153 years ago, the German scientist William Blandowski had established a research camp, and thus began cataloguing the natural phenomena of this particular part of Australia. [The site is close to Merbein, which is about a 5 minute drive from Mildura.]

Blandowski was based at Mondellimin for about 35 weeks, from April until November of 1857. During this time, through a constructive collaboration with the local indigenous people, the Nyeri Nyeri, Blandowski and his assistant Gerard Krefft collected and documented hundreds of species of plants, mammals, reptiles, fishes and birds. Many of the species Blandowski and Krefft documented during their time at Mondellimin have since become extinct or seriously endangered.

I was camping in this same spot because I was [and still am] undertaking a project to retrace the steps of Blandowski - and with luck, discover something about the area which I could then translate into some form of meaningful art work, which would somehow pay tribute to Blandowski and Krefft's scientific legacy, whilst also dealing with the issues that face present-day Mondellimin, and the Murray-Darling region in general.

I also made a day-trip up to a small town in central NSW called Wilcannia, which according to various sources I had been reading, Blandowski had travelled to and experienced some kind of sublime experience in the Australian outback. I went there looking for a mountain where Blandowski had reached 'the verge of civilisation...and gazed into the unknown wilds expanding before him'. When I arrived at Wilcannia, there were no apparent mountains to be seen - but of course, I had no map of the area, save for the 'map' function my phone, which was out of reception, so I wasn't sure where exactly I was supposed to be looking anyway- so I travelled a little further to the turn-off for Bourke. It looked like this:

Whilst exploring Mildura, I discovered the curious, but ultimately underwhelming, World Wide Sculpture Project.

I stayed at Mondellimin for about a week - fishing, walking and documenting the area with photographs and videos. After a day or two, my camera batteries went flat, despite my apparent [and apparently fruitless] preparations, so I was reduced to taking snapshots with my mobile phone. The self portrait above is one of them.

Now that I'm back, I am returning to the studio to begin work.

1 comment:

  1. You have suitably 19th century serious expression in this photo!