Miriwoong country

This work is testimony to the capacity of people to forge their own paths.

All too often the infrastructure governments provide doesn’t reflect concern for the needs of the people they serve. Often these needs are met with ingenuity and perseverance by people themselves. These shortcuts lie within a two-kilometre radius in a town in remote Western Australia. They were born of different needs and repetitive acts: walking, riding or driving from here to there.

But there is more to this story.

These shortcuts lie in one of the Aboriginal areas of town; they were made by Aboriginal people. In some ways they are reminiscent of the tracks that course like highways across Australia, eons before European invasion and after. At the same time they bring to mind this region’s history of Aboriginal labour. At the turn of the twentieth century, in the midst of intense colonial violence, for some survival meant working on newly established cattle stations under conditions akin to indentured slavery. One of their many jobs was to make the country ‘accessible’ to the European invaders by building roads.

Yet shortcuts are more ingenious and complex than roads. Generally speaking they allow for a more direct route, but they might also present an alternate route. For example, shortcuts can emerge from a need for privacy – privacy from one’s own kin, from the gaze of prying neighbours, or from the scrutiny of the police.

The self-made status of the shortcut has an inherent degree of wit and cheek. Making your own road can be satisfying: a sense of belonging infused with a little rebellion or the simple physical joys found in loose sand under foot or tyre. Essentially communal, shortcuts invite constant appropriation, renegotiation, growth.

Shortcuts happen outside of town planning. They are created in the defiant act of using space as one wills, not as somebody or something else wills.

Shortcut consists of 26 photographs, a video and text. The work was originally commissioned by Chart Collective for their beautiful multimedia series Legend that features 15 commissioned pieces exploring the feelings, knowledges, and memories contained in the charts, lines and legends of our lives and imaginations.