Jill Orr: Southern Cross – To Bear and Behold (2009)

Jill Orr

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“There is never one moment when past dissolves completely, leaving a new landscape in its wake”

From Mark McKenna, Looking for Blackfellas Point: An Australian History of Place p. 202

Mitre Lake sits at the base of Mitre Rock that is part of Mount Arapiles in Western Central Victoria. It is the tribal home to the few remaining Djurid Balug people of the Wotjobaluk Tribe.  This is the site of the photo- performance: The Southern Cross – to bear and behold and Faith in a Faithless Land.

The landscape is both an ancient theatre within which drama unfolds and is in reality a harsh salt lake that is a bottomless deposit of oozy black clay covered by a salty crustaceous surface. It is sulphuric and luminous and has been mined for its salt in the past. Mitre Lake does resemble hundreds of dried up salt lakes that have been caused by drought and erosion however uniquely Mitre Lake is natural with the ability to dramatically and temporally record the traces of life that are captured on its surface. This surface is like a mirror reflecting both the ancient and recent past and the potential future. It is full of presence and implicit absence.

The Missionary, the subject also in Faith in a Faithless Land,  trudges through the mud bearing the Cross of Salvation and carrying the word to whom ever will listen or is vulnerable to bribes of sugar, flour and redemption. The missionary’s struggle is that of faith in an environment that renders this action as ridiculous or mad but never the less the footprints have been indelible.

“The land is hot, so hot that your protection bursts into flames.” are words I wrote that inspired the 1989 image of Walking on Planet Earth (photographed by Virginia Fraser). I have employed this action again in Mitre Lake. Given the early environmental warnings of the 1960s, 70s and 1980sthat have taken until the 21st century to reach environmental, ecomomic and political urgency. Mitre Lake is symbolic of this crisis.  The new image has a different resonance and yet the transformative quality of fire is the energy of positive action both of the heart, body and mind where the desire to  act with and not only on the environment is recognised as imperative.

To bear and behold the renewal is the task ahead.