OZTOPIA


An Introduction

Oztopia is an imagined space within the Australian consciousness. It is a space in which one expects to find an idyllic representation of Australian life. A paradise brimming with barbeques, beaches and no worries. 

On closer inspection Oztopia represents no such place in the Australian consciousness. It sits uneasily between the celebrated myths of national identity and the cold truths that tarnish the nations friendly façade. In this space, the complexity that surrounds the process of defining national identity is made apparent. Scratch the surface and Australian identity reveals itself to be a complex milieu of myths, alternating narratives, and power relationships. 

Oztopia is essentially a souvenir store, a place in which identity can be bought and sold. Yet the souvenirs from Oztopia are not ordinary souvenirs, they have been reinterpreted. They have been made into objects of critique. Not designed for tourists, these souvenirs communicate directly with the Australian public. From dealing with collective guilt to highlighting the limits of our tolerance, the souvenirs of Oztopia mock the essentialist language of nationalism and allude to the existence of alternative Australian stories. 

The opinions expressed in the souvenirs of Oztopia do not seek to represent a new form of Australian identity. The highly subjective content of Oztopia has been employed to provoke debate, but more importantly to draw attention to the subjective nature of all identity creation. The idea of the ‘nation’ is a deeply entrenched concept within society today. It has become a naturalised concept, despite the fact that its very existence relies upon the imagination of millions (Anderson, 1983). The souvenirs of Oztopia ask us to delve deeper into questions concerning Australian national identity creation, the motives behind such a creation, and to consider those who are excluded as a part of this process. 

Souveniring the interior implies not just the journey into the interior of one’s country but also the journey into the interior of one’s self. I agree with the writer Alexis Wright (2008) when she says, ‘if we want to understand the threats and fears of the world in this millennium, it would be wise to look right down to the personal’. This project has been for me as much about surveying the cultural and political landscape of Australia as it has been about assessing my position within it. Through this process of self-examination I have been made
aware of my own assumptions pertaining to Australian identity. By discovering my own fears, I have begun to gain a humble acceptance of and appreciation for difference. 

Benedict, A., Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, 1983, London & New York: Verso

Tsiolkas, C., Haigh, G., Wright, A., 2008, Tolerance, Prejudice  and Fear: Sydney PEN voices; the 3 writers project, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest


Souvenirs of Oztopia


Yellow Peril

 An unspoken history with a fear that won't disappear.   A fear of outsiders continues to occupy a space in the Australian consciousness. Ghassan Hage states in  Against     Paranoid Nationalism  (2003) that behind this paranoia exists   ‘an often unconsciousness fear of losing the social  and economic privileges gained from one’s structured position as coloniser.’

An unspoken history with a fear that won't disappear.

A fear of outsiders continues to occupy a space in the Australian consciousness. Ghassan Hage states in Against Paranoid Nationalism (2003) that behind this paranoia exists ‘an often unconsciousness fear of losing the social and economic privileges gained from one’s structured position as coloniser.’


Spoon Feeding Tolerance

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  ‘Tolerance has been one of our distinguishing features for a very long time.’ John Howard, 1995    Just outside five of the world’s most liveable cities, the   Australian government has, and continues, to detain asylum   seekers in detention centres.  Designed in collaboration with studio Alter these three baby garments ironically welcome new arrivals to detention centres and in doing so question the limits of Australia's tolerance to outsiders.

‘Tolerance has been one of our distinguishing features for a very long time.’ John Howard, 1995

Just outside five of the world’s most liveable cities, the Australian government has, and continues, to detain asylum seekers in detention centres. Designed in collaboration with studio Alter these three baby garments ironically welcome new arrivals to detention centres and in doing so question the limits of Australia's tolerance to outsiders.


Fear of the Interior 

  The Australian wilderness is a formidable force. (Or so I’ve heard). Place this tea cup and saucer on the mantle piece in your inner city home as a reminder of its ferocity.    This souvenir highlights the uncomfortable relationship   early settlers formed with the natural landscape. In  Against       Paranoid Nationalism  (2003), Ghassan Hage states that  much  of this uncertainty is kept alive by the ‘awareness   of the impossibility of fully colonising the natural  environment.’ He describes Australia as missing the ‘confident frontier culture’ that was evident in the  United States. Advances in technology may have aided Australians’   ability to navigate the wilderness, however   this has only served to distance the majority of the  population from the reality of the harsh Australian environment.

The Australian wilderness is a formidable force. (Or so I’ve heard). Place this tea cup and saucer on the mantle piece in your inner city home as a reminder of its ferocity.

This souvenir highlights the uncomfortable relationship early settlers formed with the natural landscape. In Against Paranoid Nationalism (2003), Ghassan Hage states that much of this uncertainty is kept alive by the ‘awareness of the impossibility of fully colonising the natural environment.’ He describes Australia as missing the ‘confident frontier culture’ that was evident in the United States. Advances in technology may have aided Australians’ ability to navigate the wilderness, however this has only served to distance the majority of the population from the reality of the harsh Australian environment.


Stamping Out Diversity

  how to use stamp: 1. Stamp people who look Un-Australian. 2. Stamp people who are seen doing or heard saying anything Un-Australian. 3. Stamp anyone who criticises your stamping.   The unaustralian stamp symbolises the violence used  to maintain the boundary between what is and isn’t   considered Australian. In treating the simplification of Australian values sarcastically, this souvenir points to the  impossibility of national self-reflection. 

how to use stamp:
1. Stamp people who look Un-Australian.
2. Stamp people who are seen doing or heard saying anything Un-Australian.
3. Stamp anyone who criticises your stamping.

The unaustralian stamp symbolises the violence used to maintain the boundary between what is and isn’t considered Australian. In treating the simplification of Australian values sarcastically, this souvenir points to the impossibility of national self-reflection. 


The Band Aid Effect

  Directions: 1. Stop the nation to apologise. 2. Place Band-Aid on an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. 3. Carry on as before.    The national apology delivered by Kevin Rudd  in early 2008 was one of the most resounding moments  in Australian political history. However, if Australians remain stagnant and limited in their view of what is possible   beyond the apology, in terms of real action, we will  not move forward toward reconciling this major issue.

Directions:
1. Stop the nation to apologise.
2. Place Band-Aid on an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.
3. Carry on as before.

The national apology delivered by Kevin Rudd in early 2008 was one of the most resounding moments in Australian political history. However, if Australians remain stagnant and limited in their view of what is possible beyond the apology, in terms of real action, we will not move forward toward reconciling this major issue.


The Sacred Sherrin

  If thy heart bleeds for thy team, they soul shall be saved. If thy heart not bleedeth for any team, thy must have no soul.   The devotion showed by football fans at a football game is at times equivocal to that of religious worship. Brian  Stoddard writes in  As Others See Us  (2008) that whilst sport  has given Australia ‘some of its identity and many of its great moments’, it has also ‘flattened out the past that is outside history’. In many respects football has become mythologised by popular Australian culture. In this  sense, it can appear separate from the politics of everyday  life, despite being intimately intertwined. 

If thy heart bleeds for thy team, they soul shall be saved. If thy heart not bleedeth for any team, thy must have no soul.

The devotion showed by football fans at a football game is at times equivocal to that of religious worship. Brian Stoddard writes in As Others See Us (2008) that whilst sport has given Australia ‘some of its identity and many of its great moments’, it has also ‘flattened out the past that is outside history’. In many respects football has become mythologised by popular Australian culture. In this sense, it can appear separate from the politics of everyday life, despite being intimately intertwined. 


The Private Made Public

  Purchase my experience of Sydney, Uluru and the Gold Coast. Add your experiences to the back of the card to make for more interesting reading.    These postcards are intended to highlight that an identity of any given location is not fixed,  but dependent on an individuals experience and interpretation. The design  demonstrates both the public and private nature of   postcards and questions the boundaries between art and  the consumer object. 

Purchase my experience of Sydney, Uluru and the Gold Coast. Add your experiences to the back of the card to make for more interesting reading.

These postcards are intended to highlight that an identity of any given location is not fixed, but dependent on an individuals experience and interpretation. The design demonstrates both the public and private nature of postcards and questions the boundaries between art and the consumer object. 


The History Wars

  Who holds the power to tell the tale of Australian    history? Having the power to change the curriculum and you’re off to a    good start. This pack includes 3 coloured pencils    and one white eraser. tip: Start by colouring in the    word democracy.     The History Wars  taps into the ongoing debate in Australia  about the role the past should play in constructing the  present. In  As Others See Us  (2008) ,  Ashis Nandy maintains  that history becomes a tool for the dominant, where by ‘memories that cannot be historicised are discarded or marginalised.’ By using the white eraser, I have chosen to highlight White Australia’s privileged position as the dominant ethnicity within this debate.

Who holds the power to tell the tale of Australian history? Having the power to change the curriculum and you’re off to a good start. This pack includes 3 coloured pencils and one white eraser. tip: Start by colouring in the word democracy.

The History Wars taps into the ongoing debate in Australia about the role the past should play in constructing the present. In As Others See Us (2008), Ashis Nandy maintains that history becomes a tool for the dominant, where by ‘memories that cannot be historicised are discarded or marginalised.’ By using the white eraser, I have chosen to highlight White Australia’s privileged position as the dominant ethnicity within this debate.


Curiouser & Curiouser Exhibition, 2009

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