strata - the layered land

24hrART, Darwin 2007
solo exhibition*

s t r a t a   t h e   l a y e r e d   l a n d  

This was the layered land.  All the times that had happened before were there in layers…The land was deceptive, lulling the unwary with an ancient poise.  The land looked solid enough but Lara knew to take nothing as a given, treading very carefully on this journey across it.  There was no chance of the country not taking what it was owed or forgiving her transgressions.[1]

Alice Springs artist Bek Mifsud* traces the threads that link her own journeys over the last decade to those of others who have and who continue to feel compelled to travel to the centre.  She explores the concept of a collective experience of place, of transformation and how this landscape in particular affects those who travel here.

In strata the layered land fragmented texts from explorers, naturalists, artists, writers and her own journals overlap as paths and thoughts are crossed, merged, and erased; the artist’s process creating a palimpsest of experiences held by the land. Histories are erased and written over, yet never completely, for ‘this was the layered land…all the times that had happened before were there in layers’[2].

Juxtaposed against this landscape of text is a large-scale geologic rubbing from the ancient strata of the Amadeus Basin, an inland sea that dominated Central Australia between 950 and 450 MYA. This monoprint was made directly from fossilized ripple marks of the long evaporated ocean floor and seems to possess a great weight, both in its physical scale and in its reference to geologic time.  Its solid archetypal form contrasts ‘the sheer age of this weathered land  [with] the tenuousness of human interaction with the environment’[3].

This is layered land, ancient geologies laid bare, eroded, exposed, this land holds the stories of those who have travelled, the strata of memory[4].

In ocean songs graphite rubbings are taken from the 900 MY ripple formations of the Armadeus Basin that are a striking geologic feature of the Macdonnell Ranges.  These rubbings are combined to create a paradoxical ocean, which becomes a metaphor for such journeys.  This inland sea is deliberately positioned on the gallery floor, encouraging the viewer to look down from above and experience an aerial landscape that echoes the sand dunes of the Simpson Desert. 

Floating delicately upon this ocean are numerous paper boats, created from prints of the journals of those who also have made the pilgrimage from the edge to the centre.  Amongst these boats are those created with Mifsud’s own images and writings as she considers the threads that link those who have and those who continue to be drawn to this place.

[1] Dutton Jo. On the Edge of Red Anchor 1998 p194
[2] Dutton Jo. On the Edge of Red Anchor 1998 p194
[3] Maher Rachel. Reviewing Mifsud’s work in RealTime + On Screen, Oct-Nov 2005, p11
[4] Schama Simon, quoted in Mackay, Mary All That Mighty Mass of Rock; Art and Australia Vol 31.No 3 1994 pp345-6

*under previous name Bek Mifsud