Search for Australia felix – revisiting an arts installation

An Australia Day post today.

In 1995 we participated in the Australia felix Arts Festival in Benalla – the initiative of renowned local artist Ivan Durrant  – and produced an arts installation in the early, gentle years of digital animation. Early western explorers came through to discover the grasslands of central Victoria and declared the area ‘Australia felix’ – anticipating the endless felicity it would bring their heirs and successors.

A few weeks ago we finally digitised and uploaded the short film compilation of Search for Australia felix onto the strange marvel that is youtube. As the title suggests, the installation explored whether we have found the felicity promised by our forebears or whether the nature of our inheritance would require a reluctant atonement.

The production was a chronology of transition – starting with a contemplation of an ‘unrecorded’ history – in our western knowledge – a time when the land was here and the people on it took their rhythm from the land and understood it.

The later part of the film is more about what western minds attribute as important; the history of progress, assertion of power, the dates of note and the creation of built places through to news and events – the floods, the drought.


Marangan from Search for Australia Felix. Artist & animator Trace Balla

The whole production was hard work and we somehow slotted endless trips to Melbourne and Benalla and Geelong with a two year old en tow. I was not very well during the production and found out the week we finished that I was having our second baby.

An exhibition of Ivan Durrant’s less controversial art works was exhibited in Yea a little while ago and, by chance, we are passing through tomorrow and hope to stop in at Gallery 34 to see what’s on there. (The Waiting for Rain exhibition at Gallery 34 is now uploaded!)

Trace Balla did all the original artwork and laboured endlessly over the animation.

Although we were sponsored by Apple Computer, with the most state of the art computer of the day, it was extremely arduous work to develop the animation.

Mark Pollard of the Victorian College of the Arts created the soundscape and my husband Stephen the composition as well as managing the whole adventure.

There are all sorts of links and interconnections in this film now I look back to it (I am somewhat older now than I in my rather stilted introduction to the film). Friends who now live at “Marangan”, recently viewed paintings by Ivan Durrant in the National Gallery of Australia and other meandering connections that have come not for any reason but because I am drawn to this land myself and so drawn to others who live there.

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