chapter  6
18 Pages

The Fainter Land

Photography, Colonialism and Living Pictures
WithJane Lydon

This chapter explores a particular kind of photographic re-enactment, in which Aboriginal people perform a story, or history, for the camera. Aboriginal tableaux vivants focuses the sense of the past in the present by showing us the past re-enacting its past: out of time, they recur, demanding that one experience them again and again in successive presents. The 1848 Tasmanian tableau vivant rediscovered in 2012 by Tasmanian artist and curator Julie Gough forms a radical contrast with Kilburn's. It shows well-known Tasmanians Walter George Arthur, Mary Ann and David Bruny in a deliberately staged pose. The cloudy background similar to benjamin Duterrau's painting, serves to outline the subject's silhouetted heads and bodies more distinctly. This is the potential of photographs to conjure the past in the present, bringing these past performances into our endlessly re-made presents. 'Fixed in a sweet meniscus, out of Time', photographs lens that 'fainter land', forever detached from modernity's relentless temporal flow.