Horizon (Orange) / Horizon (Goulburn)

Catalogue essay

Horizon is a video installation which resulted from an interest in exploring the effect of our movement on the appearance of what we see. It was also influenced by an interest in how we locate ourselves in our environment, in such a way as to help us understand where we stand in our relationship to the world surrounding us.

Each video shown in Horizon, was made by pointing a video camera at right angles to the direction of the train, holding the lens against the train window, and recording continuously for one hour. The camera records what any traveller sees as they look out of the train window into the passing world. However it records only a selection of it, as the camera lens is fixed at 90 degrees, and records a narrower band of vision than human eyes can see. A traveller has access to far more information than is provided by the camera's record, so that the moving image collected by the camera is more concentrated and abstract in comparison with the moving world seen by the traveller.

This selection of visual information means the video-viewer can concentrate on a smaller range of visual information. This might enable us to see some things more clearly, or, perhaps to realise that many things we see every day, are actually very confusing. For example, we can see how forms change as we move past or through them, how the foreground (eg other moving trains) edit the background in and out, how the moving image tends to separate into segments which move at different speeds against each other, as if someone was pulling strings on a large theatre stage.

Presumably we see these same sort of things everyday, or whenever we travel. But we can also see this familiar world in a different way in a video recording, because one of the things deleted from the world in the video is our own presence in it. This presence is re-inserted here in the video installation, through combining several videos into a large drawing which emphasises the viewer's presence watching them. There is a map of the continent marked with the locations shown on each video, and so viewers can work out that they are in the centre of a large drawing spanning the continent. In Horizon (Orange), twelve videos document a long line from Perth to Orange, another from Orange to Sydney, and another short one between Dubbo and Orange. These lines could be understood as a drawing across the continent which marks, through the juncture of these three lines, the spot where the videos are installed and where people can sit on three-segmented cushions to watch them. In Horizon (Goulburn), the videos document a line from Brisbane to Melbourne, crossed by the smaller line from Crookwell to Canberra via Goulburn, which consitutes a cross marking the spot where viewers can sit on four-segmented cushions to watch the videos.

A cross is one of those ambiguous signs that does one thing and its opposite - it can mark a spot but can also delete something by crossing it out. After I had travelled across these train lines to make the videos, I realised that these lines and all the elements of settlement recorded in the videos - the cleared land, the fences, the roads, the towns etc - mark both the dominant Western meaning, and the attempt to delete its Aboriginal meaning. I realised that there is not any neutral way to name the land which I have borrowed to use as a large drawing board for this landscape video drawing installation. My original intention of identifying each video with the name of one of the towns the train went through, would make the work more complicit with the dominance of Western meaning than necessarty. Consequently I asked the Land Councils in each of the areas recorded if they could name the video recording of this part of their country. Responses received by the time of exhibition are acknowledged on the video covers.

Margaret Roberts May 2000


This project was supported by

Museums and Galleries Foundation of NSW
through the assistance of the New South Wales Ministry for the Arts
and the Australia Council, the Federal Government’s arts funding and advisory body.

Countrylink rail and coach network.

Indian Pacific.

Horizon essay edited by Denise Thompson.

Catalogue design and typography: Yiorgos Zafiriou.

Catalogue printing: Hypercet Printing, Goulburn.

Cushions: Ned Young.