Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Astronautic rock art

This week I have been entering data from fieldwork recording rock art on the Burrup peninsula, Western Australia. I've always wanted to find an Aboriginal rock art astronaut, and suddenly there one was! On a rock panel recorded by my esteemed colleague Phil Czerwinski, a little anthropomorphic figure appeared to have a fish-bowl-like helmet on its head. Bingo! But seeing this figure as part of a whole art tradition, and with a personal acquaintance with the art of the Burrup, it actually required a new headspace to give it the ancient astronaut interpretation. Lines like that encircling the head of the figure occur in all sorts of contexts, around limbs, on animals, as isolated motifs. It could have been a work in progress, where the artist would have filled in the circle to make a bigger head eventually. Everything else depicted on the panel was routine in terms of Burrup engravings. I'm not a rock art specialist, so this was an interesting thought process for me. It gave me a glimpse of how the amateur may interpret rock art and perceive such things - a la Erich von Daniken.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Starfalls and first contact

It's Festival time in Adelaide. On the weekend I attempted to visit an exhibition of works that imagines starlight and starfalls as seen through a spacecraft window. Contrary to all advertised information, the exhibition space was shut. This was a pity, as I was planning to write a review of the exhibition for Sky and Space magazine. Their loss.

The opening of the exhibition "First Contact in the Western Desert" at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Centre was a different story. The exhibition featured anthropologist Donald Thomson, who was involved in the Woomera protest in 1947, and told the story of first contact from the perspective of Aboriginal people. There was a whole wall devoted to Woomera, and to my delight, one of the panels depicted the cast list from Jim Crawford's 1947 play "Rocket Range". I knew the play existed but seeing this has made me determined to track down the script.