Sailing into Australian Settler Fictions: Reflection on an Inquiry and Construction with Performance and Images

  • Paul Reader Ardugula Aboriginal CorporationUniversity of New England - retired
Keywords: expedition, boat, desert, walking-art, post-structuralism, grey-nomads, cultural authority


This is reflection on artistic inquiry as an expedition, construction and modification of a watercraft, where image-making occurs en route. The journey is from the Queensland Gold Coast to the fringes of the Simpson Desert, undertaken in May-June 2018. The place of boats in Australian inland exploration is considered. The author-artist situates performance/art-making as a post-structural practice. Research or inquiry is seen partly as a self-realization occurring after the process has already begun. The origins of the craft and the expedition are also described. From the images the artist imagines the search for Burke and Wills, the lost explorers, as it might be conducted by boat. Encounters with ‘Grey Nomads’ are considered. An inland sea is discovered, and the existence of the Peoples Republic of Wangkangurra imaginatively arises in the vacated fringes of the Simpson Desert. Key images of the emergent inquiry are provided and discussed. Discoveries and disruptions of settler fictions are made, concluding on the value of the approach in challenging cultural authorities.

Author Biography

Paul Reader, Ardugula Aboriginal CorporationUniversity of New England - retired

Paul Reader is an independent artist-performer, also a former Senior Research Fellow in Contextual Studies at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia. His career has spanned visual research, the community arts and community development with neighbourhood centres, environment groups and remote communities for over 30 years. Since 2014 he has worked closely with the Ardugula Aboriginal Corporation and Dunjiba Community Council at Oodnadatta, South Australia, resuming a connection to the community and country with which he first worked in the 1980s.



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How to Cite
ReaderP. (2019). Sailing into Australian Settler Fictions: Reflection on an Inquiry and Construction with Performance and Images. Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, 4(2), 590-610.