Central Victoria, Australia
Greg Smith: Ours Ours
The Dja Dja Wrung, indigenous Australians of central Victoria, are the traditional custodians of the land and its resources, and have been for over 40,000 years.
Dense European settlement began only 150 years ago. Attempting to boost migration, the British government strove to remove the stigma of Australia as a convict settlement and hence changed its law. Any gold found was to be the property of the digger, not the crown. Central Victoria was the all-time richest alluvial gold field in the world and after the gold rush, half a million settlers remained to work in agriculture and industry. Now with only 2% employed in agriculture, 80% of Australians live in the big cities. Like many, I left to enjoy a small town country lifestyle, closer to nature.
Whilst photographing, I focused on the strange and arbitrary way that fences appear upon our landscape. Straight lines are often ruled in an office somewhere and materialize on the land as schisms of land use and ownership. I found myself returning to the same camera angle, often cropping two houses in half. The series grew using this format.
Houses represent our home, our shelter, our security, our loves, our inheritance, our capital or nest egg, our access to schooling, our status and position in the capital market, etc. Focusing on 'the space between' rather than people or things, I use the terrain défini to ask the audience to confront questions of individuality, possession and ownership.
(The excellent work of Bernd and Hilla Becher explored a typology of the “form of our time.” Hence, I create and offer my series as an exploration of the non-form of our time, or the space between.)
The bland documentary style used is perhaps confronting at first, inviting the viewer to believe that there is a total lack of poetry in the images. Viewed in totality, however, the images with their repetition of cropping and focus make us reconsider a familiar world, full of nuance and personal meanings. We, the invisible people of these photographs, become strangely tangible again.
Greg Smith was born in 1958 in Adelaide, Australia. He is educated in humanities, arts, design and teaching. He works as a community artist and teacher in central Victoria.
The exhibition Ours Ours is scheduled for La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre, Bendigo in August-September 2010.