Monash University

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Paradise/prison: a photographic staging of dystopian narratives in the Australian landscape

posted on 2017-02-27, 00:09 authored by Kerr, Ashley
In this practice-based PhD project, I explore the proposition that the colonisation of Australia has amounted to various forms of dystopian landscapes. Through a process of photographic and video-based visual research, I stage landscape narratives in the Australian ‘natural’ environment and attempt to portray metaphors that pertain to the characteristics of a dystopia. These narratives often contain dramatised elements of existing mythologies, biblical and otherwise, and are shaped and imagined out of a sense of the dark, foreboding and unwelcoming nature of the Australian environment as it has appeared to settlers. I create various dark evocations of an Australian landscape which seek to reflect the unease that many white Australians, including myself, have felt, and continue to feel, within it. More broadly, my work also evokes a distinctly Western human condition of simultaneously forming a part of, and yet being estranged from, the natural world. My studio work is contextualised through readings of historical and contemporary theorists and practitioners whose work explores the Australian landscape. As well as postcolonial theory, my examples include films, paintings, photographs and musical scores that depict or represent narratives and characters within tragic, estranged circumstances from their environment. Often melancholic, these representations frequently allude to violence, include an element of vigilantism, and more often than not, function to isolate their characters from the natural world. In short, the white settler fear of and disconnection to nature is something I frequently attempt to investigate through my studio research and within the chapters of the exegesis.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Daniel Palmer

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Fine Art


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture