There is a desolate language from the trees

Upon its mount, whose plaintive murmurs thrill.

    - Anonymous, Monody on Batman’s Hill, 1843.

Australia’s second largest metropolis is superimposed on Indigenous Country. For almost 200 years Melbourne has radiated outwards over the lands of the Kulin Nations from an archetypal colonial starting point where a significant river meets a sheltered bay.

The city was founded by a colonist named John Batman, doing so via a legal hoax he called a ‘treaty’ with Wurundjeri elders of the Kulin Nations. In an extraordinary attempt at self-agrandisement, Batman tried to personally acquire over 240,000 hectares of Kulin Country in exchange for not much more than handkerchiefs, scissors and blankets.

Batman was also a killer, a bounty hunter of palawa in lutruwita (Tasmania), and his proposal to name the city after himself nearly resulted in ‘Batmania’ where Melbourne came to be. However, there is a shadowland hiding in plain sight within the Melbourne of today, a second city made up of dozens of avenues, roads and parks that all bear John Batman’s name.

Fieldnotes from Batmania is a survey of that city.

It is an ongoing project sequencing large format colour film photographs made at the many parks, streets and monuments named after John Batman. The work forms a toponymy and takes aesthetic cues from the new topographics movement. Framing a paradox between the grandiosity of empire and the languorousness of the burbs, the body of work also invites the audience to examine official remembrance of the past at a tipping point in history.

Fieldnotes from Batmania has been developed in formal consultation with the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Corporation (elders Julieanne Axford and Gail Smith) and the project has grown from my MFA at RMIT University exploring Australian identity. It is also a personal response to proponents of de-colonisation theory such as Gary Foley, Clare Land, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Léuli Eshrāghi and Kimberley Moulton. In particular the consistent theme that it is incumbent on the coloniser group to practise listening and self-reflection.

I acknowledge the sovereignty of the Kulin Nations and Yorta Yorta, whose unceded lands are where Fieldnotes from Batmania was made. I pay respect to their Elders past and present.

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