Faith in a pile of stones

Faith in a pile of stones takes the dam wall at Lake Argyle as a starting point to unravel the casual sense of certainty that underpins the European colonisation of Australia.

This dam wall—birthed from colonial dreams—is a fragile balancing act. It was made, less than fifty years ago, out of thousands of stones, blasted from a mountain on Miriwoong Country in the largest non-nuclear explosion in Australian history, and placed one on top of the other, incarcerating a once roaring body of water, now contained and systematically managed at twenty times the size of Sydney Harbour. The town where I live was built because of this dam. There is an apparent robustness here, a sense of permanence at first glance. But there is also a hidden violence and fragility. Some day the ‘wall’ that Australia has placed its faith in, with such certainty, will fall.

While making this work, I came across striking archival images of the site from the 1960s and 1970s depicting an abundance of men in white clothes, walking on, surveying and drowning other people’s land, and looking obtusely satisfied with the violence of their labour.

2018

I was denied use of these images by a historical society on the basis that I would create myths out of their “history”, as though Australia’s originary idea of terra nullius was not the biggest myth of all. In turn, I restaged the images myself, and it felt wonderful to be wrestling with the historical archive in this way.

In 2019 the street sign – Faith in a pile of stones – was installed at the site of the work’s conceptual origin. Ever since, the ground in front of the street sign, normally full of weeds, has been worn down from people standing there and looking. (A limited number of original polaroid images are available for purchase here.)

Faith in a pile of stones was commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney for the exhibition Temporary Certainty, curated by Pedro de Almeida and featuring works by Rushdi Anwar, Sarker Protick and myself.

The work has also featured in:

installation shots by Kai Wasikowski

Read about how Alana works as an artist and mother on Spilt Milk. Listen to interviews with The Polis Project and Canvas: unframing art and ideas. Think about violent dreams of development in the north-west of Australia. And a conversation about Kashmir with Sanjay Kak.

© 2020 Alana Hunt