Details

Keywords Change this

Site Specific Installation

Project timeline

2002 – 2002

Type

Experimental

Location Change this

South Australia Desert
Australia

Architect Change this

Moon Plain (Untitled) Change this

South Australia Desert, Australia
by Matej Andraž Vogrinčič Change this
1 of 1

Description Change this

Matej Andraž Vogrinčič created an untitled installation at he place called Moon Plain. The stretch of country, known as gibber desert, is among the driest places in Australia. It begins a few kilometers off the unsealed Oodnadatta track, twenty-five kilometers northeast of the opal mining settlement of Coober Pedy in remote outback Australia. In summer temperatures occasionally rise to 50 degrees celsius. The average rainfall in impossibly low. Bounded in the south by the Stuart Rangers, a long chain of low hills, the Moon Plain is vas, reddish brown, treeless, almost completely flat and very nearly the size of Slovenia. It is covered with smooth weathered stones the size of cricket balls and crystalline shards of gypsum. Slight undulations in the land only become apparent to the visitor after a little while and are best seen in the slanting light of dawn or dusk. Those undulations are crucial to the ecology of the region because of the rare occasions when it rains even the slightest depression may attract sufficient water to sustain an astonishing variety of plants, which afterwards shrivel back into apparently lifeless tufts.

The piece consists of 1,800 perfectly white plaster casts of three different shaped and sized miniature toy watering can, arranged on an area of approximately 800 square meters of ground in a very slight, bowl-shaped depression. An almost imperceptible hill or rise nearby obscures the dirt road that passes approximately two kilometers away. The formation of the plaster models, which the artist manufactured over a period of three months in an underground pottery in Coober Pedy, is neither polygonal, nor entirely rounded or wholly organic in shape. Likewise, the distribution and placement of each model is neither random nor strictly regimented. The artist has removed the largest gibber stones and smoothed out a wide surrounding border of sandy ground with the aid of an ordinary broom.

The Moon Plain project was from the outset conceived with its traditional owners and inhabitants in mind. Initially permission was sought from Antakirinja people to install the work, and in due course granted. Indeed, the local Aboriginal community showed a keen interest in the project from the outset, and provided invaluable assistance at every stage. This support was crucial, for this huge, silent place is at present subject to a claim for native title by the Antakirinja people, a legal process that was made possible by legislation arising from a momentous 1993 decision of the High Court of Australia, in the case known as Mabo v Queensland.

That decision did away with the old legal doctrine of terra nullius, not merely as it applied to Murray Island, whose inhabitants brought the original action, but to the entire continent so that it no longer applies to places like The Moon Plain. From a long distance away, the work looks like a slender strip of white incised on the red-brown landscape, a kind of gash. Upon closer inspection the formation of plaster objects resembles a flock of greedy white sulphur crested cockatoos. The miniature scale of these spectral watering cans and the weird choreography with which they are set upon a gigantic sweep of flat nothingness give this installation its powerful aesthetic charge, together with the pyrotechnics of dazzling reflected light at different times of day. Meanwhile, the ironic choices of motif and medium - water is scarcer in Australia than in any other continent, and becoming more so; Moon Plain is almost entirely composed of gypsum, hydrated calcium sulphate, the principal ingredient of ordinary plaster - demonstrate this artist's capacity for dry wit, and his determination to tackle through his work environmental and social questions of global importance.

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