Cinematography: Alena Lodkina
Sound Design: Tom Smith
Archival Footage: National Archives of Australia
Kitsch Sites combines archival footage from the National Archives of Australia with new footage shot on Ngarigo Country, to consider the Snowy Mountains Scheme as an aesthetic project with colonial kitsch at its centre.
The work sees colonial kitsch as enacting a particular form of settler nativism, manically reproducing colonial figures such as the battler, the pioneer, the melancholic and the larrikin. In circling around a definition of kitsch, Kitsch Sites interrogates these modes of mythmaking as violently mobilising nostalgia, sentiments of national belonging, and Indigenous dispossession.
Built over 25 years between 1949 and 1974, The Snowy Mountains Scheme is the largest engineering project undertaken in Australia. Despite significant environmental and cultural impacts, the myth of the scheme elevates Australia as industrially, environmentally and culturally progressive, while simultaneously fortifying nationalist values. The mythic quality of The Scheme is one that continues to circulate in the settler-colonial imaginary.
The Snowy Mountains Film Authority was established early in The Scheme’s construction. Headed by cinematographer Harry Malcolm, the authority was contracted by the Commonwealth to produce films that documented progress, with the primary aim of bolstering public support. Malcolm produced approximately 300 moving image titles that are now held by The National Film and Sound Archive. Several private enterprises also made documentaries endorsing The Snowy Mountains Scheme, including MGM, Shell and BP.
Kitsch Sites has been commissioned as part of STRAY VOLTAGE, KINGS Artist-Run’s iterative video program, collaboratively facilitated by Rebecca McCauley and Aaron Claringbold. Looking to the potential that exists between seemingly incompatible ideas, STRAY VOLTAGE premises an experimental program of critically engaged moving image works, fundamentally grounded by the earth.
STRAY VOLTAGE is supported by the City of Melbourne Annual Arts Grants Program.