Trails in the ground

Wreck Beach Farm is a place on the country of the Bunurong / Boon Wurrung people of the Eastern Kulin. Their sovereignty was never ceded, and I acknowledge their ancestors past, present and emerging. I approach this country from a position of privilege and complacency. I acknowledge that the current inhabitation of this place has come as a result of dispossession.

‘Trails in the Ground,’ is a place-based storytelling experiment that draws upon bits and pieces – sourced from the archives, memories, reflections, and the landscape itself. These non-fiction stories are an amalgamation of hand annotated polaroid photographs, sound recordings and prose-based provocations.

Focusing on the haphazard tracks that wind their way through Wreck Beach Farm, these speculative stories are concerned with the meaning and inspiration that can be gleaned from the marks that have been worn into the landscape through instinct, habit and labour.

These marks include intricate wildlife trails that breach the barbed wire fences on the property’s perimeter. They include the rutted trails worn into the ground by the repeated journeys of tractor tires, boots and the livestock.

There are multiple, and often contradictory, meanings that can be read into these seemingly mundane features:

A trail in the ground… is an interlacing network encrypted through iteration and time.
A trail in the ground… is proof of progress.
A trail in the ground… scars the landscape.
A trail in the ground… could be too heavy at touch?
A trail in the ground… tells a journey.
A trail in the ground… indicates a preference.
A trail in the ground… betrays a habit.
A trail in the ground… is an escape.

It’s easy to ignore or dismiss the significance of these marks but doing so risks conceptualising place – in this case Wreck Beach Farm – as what Doreen Massey would call a ‘singular, representational and closed entity’.

That is not what I have found at Wreck Beach Farm. Instead, I witness an intricate ecosystem overflowing with complex sounds, smells, emotions, human and non-human actors.

When you take the time to properly ponder the embodied meanings that can be read into these marks you glimpse this fluidly and mutability. These trails become events, they are constantly changing happenings. They are speculative performances that can be reimagined, interrogated and retold in infinite ways.

They are inscriptions on the land that can be read as evidence of an intergenerational connection to this place, reminders of the movements, interventions and practices – undertaken of my members of family but also by generations of wildlife and the elements.

Interpreted in relation to Gibson’s memoryscope paradigm, ‘Trails in the Ground’ is a speculative artwork that attempts to cajole and challenge assumptions about things that are often ignored, overlooked, and taken for granted.

It attempts to present a multifaceted story from a mundane feature. In doing so, it embraces a fluid and complex understanding of place. It attempts to portray Wreck Beach Farm as a site that is constantly being reimagined and understood in the way it is processed, retold and practiced.

The creative framework provided by Gibson’s notion of the memoryscope has helped me better understand one of the special places in my life. It has enabled me to convey that place in a more nuanced and intricate light, where multiple viewpoints and readings prosper.

This creative process is deliberately local and intimate in its focus. But the insights that emerge from these speculative pieces have broader implications and applicability. I have found that subjecting particular places to a systematic process of integration can generate unique insights into the complex associations that exist between people, places and their shared pasts. 

I have found that small, intimate stories can communicate big complex ideas.