Contemplating SCANZ2013 Themes – Revisiting Scalpland

24 01 2013


One of the things I have enjoyed most so far about the residency is the diversity of artists and art forms included in SCANZ. I have particularly loved the strong links between art, the environment and Indigenous knowledge. A powerful theme that has resonated is the connection between land and body – not being separate entities but coexisting and connected. This is strong in many Indigenous cultures and we have learnt so much over the last week, through the generosity of the Māori people involved in the residency and the people we have met through them, in particular Jo and Terri.

This relationship between land and body, especially articulated through performance and song has reminded my of one of my earliest works addressing land, body and identity – Scalpland.

This ‘poetic performance’ involved me clippering my hair off, using my head as a metaphor for land development and as a way of challenging feminine stereotypes of beauty and conformity by using the pseudo science of phrenology to highlight the perpetuation of assumptions derived from physical appearances. It was also a means to address a singular notion of history, one that was written onto the land by ‘clearing the surface’ and erasing the stories and histories that had gone before. Essentially this work was a response to the changes I witnessed returning to Brisbane after ten years away and the sense of loss I experienced.

When I returned in 1993, I did not recognise my old neighbourhood, the creek I played in as a child was now under a four lane highway, the bush where we made humpys (pretending we were Aborigines) was turned into retirement villas and my street was now a dangerous, major arterial road. It had become polluted and ugly, a place where traffic pollution was endemic and seemingly devoid of a community ‘heart’.

As I reflected on this work at SCANZ, I decided to do some research and came across some interesting historical images and maps. The picture below shows the site of Aspley State School, about 200 metres from home (on my street Maundrell Tce), before it became a school.

Aspley 1887 - site of Aspley State School

Aspley 1887 – site of Aspley State School

Here are some early maps, including an aerial map from 1946.

1925 Chermside and District

1925 Chermside and District

1937 Chermside and District

1937 Chermside and District

Chermside1946 Aerial

Chermside 1946 Aerial

In this image I have placed a current aerial map over the 1946 map to highlight the change, the close up follows after the next image.


Chermside District 2013

Chermside District 2013

This shot is a much closer view of my block

Maundrell Tce 2013

Maundrell Tce 2013

One of the very interesting things I found out was that Gympie Road and Albany Creek Road were Aboriginal tracks. The creek where I played as a child was a meeting place and crossroad for potentially tens of thousands of years. Mr Wikipedia states:

Soon after Brisbane was declared a free settlement in 1842, people began exploring the lands north of Brisbane City. A northern route followed aboriginal tracks through what is now Kelvin Grove, Enoggera, Everton Hills, Albany Creek onto North Pine. This route is still known as “‘Old Northern Road'” and “‘Old North Road'” in places.
Another aboriginal track branching eastward from the Old Northern Road at the South Pine River crossed towards Little Cabbage Tree Creek and continued towards Downfall Creek. This track is now known as “Albany Creek Road” and “Gympie Road”. Albany Creek Road was known as “Chinaman Creek Road” before 1888.

Here is a map of where the tracks used to be, the line in the centre is Maundrell Tce (my street) with my house highlighted. Please note that Maundrell Terrace was NOT a track.

Ancient Tracks

Ancient Tracks

At this stage of my life, the idea of shaving my head is not very palatable (it takes too long to grow back), but I am really interested in exploring this piece on some level again, not sure how, but my time here at SCANZ has certainly reinvigorated my thinking about body/land/history/knowledge in an immediate way.

Check out these websites for more information:

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One response

12 03 2013

[…] friend and artist Tracey Benson recently posted some work and maps to her Mediakult blog. Tracey’s current work is concerned with subjective experiences of landscape through mapping. […]

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