Back to What? REGION
excerpts from a text-based installation
Linden Gallery, St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia, 1990


When Frankie landed her a plum job hosting her own chat show on morning tv, V hungrily accepted it. Replacing one obsession with another.

Sydney wasn't a bad place to be either. V was housed in Eddie's room as Eddie had mysteriously disappeared, around the time the phone rang. V had a sneaking suspicion about this, but kept it to herself. So as to not tempt fate, she always kept Eddie's computer on standby.

V knew of course that everyone has to learn in their own hard way, even the Terminator. She had taken to watching this video over and over again, as if it held the clues to the current state of play. Men need women to have their babies. Don't fuck your own mother, but encourage your best friend to. Your best friend who turns out to be your father. That way we keep the race going. We keep soldiering on, outrunning or outwitting death. Termination was also the name given to abortions. It was becoming obvious to V that there was a lot to learn.

The chat show was good in that respect. She didn't have to say much, just nod and let the talent have their field day. Their 15 minutes. The show was called "V's Own". People loved the show as much as they loved V. She was somehow skinless, utterly translucent, a peeled exotic fruit their's for the delicious eating. "V's Own" began to rate highly - an advertiser's idea of a good time. In fact the whole thing was just a long add, a lively time filler to add ballast to an already weighty barrage of tv signal being pumped out into the atmosphere by the Special Service Networkers. Who or what was being serviced or servicing the specials was never made quite clear. Not to anyone at all.

One morning was like any other morning really. Time passed, and V became a sydneysider.

One morning was not at all like any other morning. Though who could be sure?

Scene: sunroom with cane chairs, summer. Sony television switched on to "V's Own" by one Norma Spinoza, a regular viewer, with coffee and biscuit ready and waiting for her break into life.

On this morning V 's reception is tinged with a slight hostility, a crackling around the edges of her person. Norma can hardly see straight anymore, but what she sees she knows is real. The programme is dissolving into news from Eddie. (You remember Eddie? She disappeared around the time of the phone call). You could call this now a newsreel - in retrospect, maybe a case where no news would have been good news. Our Norma is compelled to watch as the scene unfolds her telly.


And with that the transmission ceased, leaving Norma in a flurry of questions. Where did Eddie, or X or whoever she is go if she left? And how did she get there in the first place? And where was Sal, for chrissakes???

What in the hell was happening here?? Norma Spinoza's head spun, and in one fell swoop she put it in the oven, turned on the gas and became no more.

It appeared that Norma, the Joan of Arc of Bexley North, had borne sole witness to scene's from Eddie's story - a stigmata burned into her dead mind's eye.

Though such was the depth of Norma's experience that the images bounced themselves back across time and space again into that long dark melancholic night as V lay dreaming. V then knew Eddie had gone a wandering.

V began to develop a clearer idea of what it meant to be an Australian - something about short-term memory, short sighted vision and a deep drug addiction (the people most admired were the beer barons). These, coupled with a complete inability to negotiate the present moment meant that Australia refused to accept that their nation was in a state of crisis, just as V refused to see that she was.

The women in Australia were so used to getting the raw end of the stick that they'd almost forgotten to imagine any other way. (N.B. almost.)

Well V was there and here, a tv I. It was up to her to decide what to make of it. Or make it. One sees what one wants to see and the world is no exception. In the new age they called it 'creative visualisation', but V remained unconvinced of these duncetricks.

(come in under the shadow of this red rock)


"The painting, with its feather-like brushstrokes in rhapsodic layers, celebrates the new growth of seeds, flowers and grasses after rains. It was painted in three stages over a period of three months, and is a masterpiece of three-dimensional illusion."

'A Bush Tucker Story' Johnny Warrangula Tjupurrula from Papunya, N.T. (catalogue notes from Mythscapes: Aboriginal Art of the Desert)

V was reading. She imagined that by reading diversely enough she could somehow piece together a coherent map of the current and future state of play. Something that would fit the young woman she'd seen in the city earlier that day into an overall logic. The young woman, wearing jeans and a faded blue cotton shirt, her long hair spilling over the edge of the stretcher, her shopping bags cared for by the concerned bystander, her body being battened down with intense concentration by the ambulance men, her arms folded over her chest in the pose of the coffin dead. "hit by a bloody car. Broken neck. Parilised probly" muttered some old codger, as the small head was cosseted into a neck brace. The only sign of life came from the girl's moving lips, whimpering.

Show me the butterfly that had this effect and I'd stop it dead in its tracks.

Every day, following the "Bold and Beautiful", 'V's Own' exploded faithfully into the lounge rooms of millions of viewers. A regular feature was an on going soap saga of a white Colonial family, the Crustaceans, in Africa set at some indetermined "historical moment". Today's segment offered viewers the delights of yet another of the exploits of Rachel, wife of crotchety old Rubber Plantation owner Corbit Crustacean, and her black honey. Viewers at home thrilled to see his huge (biodynamic) member powering between her full milky white, pink nippled breasts. As the sequence progressed and he engorged to manouvre the thrusting tip into Rachel's rapacious red mouth, many viewer's relatives reported heart failure as the key cause of the small death. 'V's Own' therefore fulfilled a very particular purpose for the TV Networkers allied company, The Do it Yourself Saucy Bereavement Service.

V's next guest on that ordinary Tuesday was the very ordinary but extremely well groomed wife of the Chief Networker, Meritt Lee. Her hair shone with hairdresser care as she plucked words from air. 'On Air', that is. Off air she was a blank screen without opinion. These types of women formed the staple of V's guest list and the audience's aspirations.

It was while discussing Meritt's theory of the soul's transmigration and superannuation that V got the distinct feeling that someone was thinking of her. Someone much further away than the viewing public with a tv screen stuck to their collective retinas. This was someone locked in a different cage.

V was concentrating on this hunch when she happened to gaze across into Meritt's unhappy and lost-for-words face. Back to work. "Why Meritt I'm certain you've given the viewers so much soul food for thought. Thanks sooo much for coming on the show" and with that V spun a dazzling smile clear 360degrees around her head to wild fake audience applause as her image cut to a cocaine commercial.

Later in the car driving home across the bridge she sensed that new feeling again, tensing the fine hairs down the back of her extended neck.

(driving into the ghostly potentia)

The changes had been wrought in her life so suddenly and without any time for reflection, let alone adjustment. Nobody had really ever questioned where she came from - Sydney had developed an autonomous internationalism which required everything in the moment to exist without history and the moment to possess only the most tenuous grip on any form of future. People arrived and departed into this net without warning or regret. Melancholia, along with the classic Emo_ions was seen as excess evolutionary baggage discarded by all real operators eons ago.

At home V hugged her own burgeoning love handles.

And so people are like planets, each exerting their own gravitational force. Some chance, you are there wherever it is you are and One comes into the others' orbit and the path is altered irrevocably for both.

I'm your Venus I'm your fire Your desire

It took a long time to realise that the thing which is recognised in the other one is your own schizophrenic self man/woman whoever you are, whatever skin you've fallen into.

You meet your mirror in the making (not your maker) at least partially. You meet the mirror you are ready for at the time. Maybe you don't meet yourself anywhere for a long time, and then become surprised at turning a corner, or sitting on a fence at finding you are no longer as alone as you'd become determined to be.

You only of course only ever see what you are open to see, sometimes walking for so long with a lens cap on your heart.

You really are an extraordinary person maybe someone says it to you but you don't respond because you aren't finding them likewise. The hardest to bear - to be the unrequited.

Rarely there are two in it together. Maybe only for a moment. But a moment can be a lifetime.

The third lifetime with a life of its own that the two create when they enter the ether of each other.

We live on an island? In Paradise I become lost with you.

" E=motion_ _ must be stifled if you are to live in this fucking world and condemn yourself to mortality_" said Anna angrily and just a trifle coy, lowering her eyelids a fraction.

" that's where you get it wrong Anna," a character called Bob answered, indignant. "that's too easy an response. The thing is, that to make these things work out you've really got to work at them, you can't just get up and leave at the first sign of things not going your way."

"Fuck it. I hate this script. Don't look back! " she screamed as she hurled a salt shaker at another of the restaurant patrons who had, up to this point being quietly eating a piece of passionfruit gateaux, and upon impact was immediately transformed into a melancholic pillar of sodium chloride.

"Bravo! Bravo mon cherie! Bravo my little coconut swirl! The director walked toward her with a big fat kiss hanging from his lips. Artfully she ducked out of range. She was thinking: don't expect me to carry the emotional bundle. She was thinking this about the person on whom she'd hung up the phone on. Ended the conversation for good the night before.

Had it ever been a good conversation? A rapid fire repartee, rigorous reportage, a bang bang bang way to go, but probably never a good conversation. Not a real exchange. And with some sadness the little actress also turned into a pillar of salt.

In the crowded restaurant, no-one seemed even mildly surprised.

Always think twice before you look back Eddie V thought aloud.

"excuse me, did I hear you say something? For a long time now I thought I was alone here. I thought that I was in the middle of a joke that someone had told the punchline for a long time ago and either I didn't hear it or I wasn't there. Either way, its been very confusing."

Eddie turned to look at the woman speaking. She had a long black cape with stars and zodiac signs embroidered onto it. The blackness of its night sky covered a momentous girth. Eddie recognised her as the one they used to call the witch of Bondi when he'd catch the bus to school.

"Nein, ich did nicht sprechen" she answered in unified German and this made the witch cry.

Eddie V stood and left the desolate restaurant, still hungry.

So V came home, drunk on the thought of <whatever illusion it was at the time>.

She held him, sweating bodies on bodies, what beauty his body taut over her, muscles tensed, fucking, had held him at once, forever, what bullshit she thought worse than mills and boone and so she made amends to get on with it. Just that. Plain simple. No time to waste.

No more psychic vampires. Keep herself to herself. Build a bridge to her own heart and let no-one traverse it. Sure, isn't it a lovely thought to allow someone over for tea and maybe cake but is it worth it, the empty pantry?

V booked herself onto a plane and set about organising the passport. Name, date of birth etc were faithfully constructed with the help of hired help. Isn't it curious the way people are so much more interested in a person who belongs to someone else V was thinking as she swatted her signature onto the passport application. Just think of M. so keen and now nothing. (there are many incidents in V's life that I haven't bothered to relate to you yet, and its likely I never will, but then the whole truth is rarely told). Sometimes, if you've a moment at the end of a long, or perhaps completely inconsequential day, try to remember IN DETAIL everything that happened. Not just a list of events, but textures. All that passed across your field. All that entered your life in the space from the morning to the evening, late, when the bells are tolling. Every detail. Do not pass go without it.

Ok from now on this is the story . A total control of one's own, forget the room. You live where you are, complete in your temple. Beware of short-haired sampsons bearing grudges!

At the dinner table, another one, he turned to V and shot arrows into their locked gaze telling her the verandah story - how his father lined all the children up on the verandah of the beach house and demanded the mother choose which one he would take with him with a bullet through their brains. Which One! Which One First? But then later he did it just to himself, alone "topped himself when I was fifteen", he'd said to the others while V got the full extended tragedy, locked into her eyes all his pain LISTEN TO ME I WANT YOUR ATTENTION I WANT IT ALL

Walking along the street she could feel him extended from his body to cover her with a cloak of himself. Curious when you can feel the force of another drawing you in - not an invitation, more a demand - demented desire. Earlier during the course of the evening on several occasions had their hands reason to meet, exchanging tobacco, lighters, change from the wine and every time the exchanges became moreso. Until at some point during the meal they were all together talking and the two of them moved towards each other with the force of the ideas, that railway track they were hurtling along, and their hands met and held together in emphasis of the climax of the journey of the wordstring of ideas which had something to do with chance in the life.

The others recognised this display and were left to wonder how this thing had occurred between these two. Why he turned to face her at specific moments and why she allowed him. However all was not roses.

As he was leaving he kissed her on both cheeks and went to walk away. V is not one to be content with the passive spectator position, she said kiss me and caught him up. He came back but he was not there, he was only there in theory. Not liking being told how to play his game their lips met without feeling like two porcelain masks. She looked at the side of his neck, glistening from the sweat of the dance. Running her fingers through the salt. Running her fingers through his short hair. Touching his shoulder (she could not resist! so strong like a rock) He would not be moved. He was impassive. He did not want her to challenge his right to call the shots.

Some writers give you juicy morsels of metaphor, so that when you read the review the critic can offer them up to you like pie on a plate. This story isn't like that. The details don't jump out and say BUY ME. No. Here you have a landscape rendered fluid, adrift and in need of a cigarette. A landscape with a purpose. With you in it, and I, and all the others it is very sparse here. People would say that we could do with more, that we should have more. They say it with certainty, citing other locations full to the brim and doing very well thankyou ( half the size of Tasmania with the world's largest foreign capital reserves - the hide! ). but what you find as you live in this place for longer is that the people here, separated by their endless deserts extend their spaces and put themselves on a veritable collision course with that other lone high-speeding vehicle burning through the ribbon of road cutting the hot sands at noon, or the dead of night. There is no peace of mind in the myth of distance, and little peace to be found.

V was beginning to see people as complex mathematical formulae. Some as simple as one plus one, some calculus, some trig, a few exponentials and many uncertainty principles.

underlying themes

construction of personality, emotion and a psychic self

life on an emotional plane, subject to movements and forces and all being relative, one movement to another

Of the time when V and Eddie V become as one and begin again

"how hard it is to keep a handle on the world when it shifts so" said Alice

Passport in order, V jumped on a plane and landed in order to arrive. She asked the taxi driver how he felt about the country being handed over to the communists in 1997. "What can I do ? I can't leave. I would like to live in a place with clean air and space for my child but I am poor and cannot go. They are no good for doing this to us, but there is nothing to be done."

Recognising V had a cold he drove via a medicine store and ordered for her some medicines. When they were at the destination they shook hands and wished each other the best.

She walked inside the hotel and went straight to bed.

Dreaming about the compulsions of other madness. Of becoming caught in a madness not of your own making. Of being caught up. Snagged.

In a forest and then swimming free. V was swimming again, downriver with the current, luxuriously.

And sometimes on these nights in the arms of Morpheus she would wake up to herself being on the verge of joissance, on the crest of a hill, Venus mons. Waking,, finding the moon full in a clear night and being not surprised, she could almost remember the one she was longing for. Almost, that shadow behind a clouded history moving to reveal itself, enticing her to follow. "Trust me" was the only sign on the dark road, full of pitfalls for the careless and cautious alike. V wore velvet, pre-crushed.

How did it happen that you ended up making love with his sister? In his apartment, in a strange city she'd come to visit. You were there in the room when she arrived. You'd met her before. She'd spent many years in Paris. How did you first touch her? In which room, by which bookcase, after which word or gesture did you put your hand to her hair and the seduction begin? Her mouth on your lips, delirious. With every movement closer to each other, feeling like you are losing ground in this high rise apartment building you are falling, cascading down with pleasure with your second sex.

And then he is there. A key turns in the lock and he is here, after work, after all. He comes into the room where we two are ruffled with the sheets, she is smoking a cigarette, her hair falling casually over her face. She is cool, we together are fine. He is nervous. He asks nothing. He says 'So' and sits on the corner of the bed. I touch him, and want his skinny body. He kisses me. He touches his sister like never before, lightly, his fingers touch her face, her hair, then stroke her breasts. We take of his clothes, he kisses her full on the mouth. He is beside himself with pleasure and taboo. His baby sister. He nuzzles her stomach and licks her pleasure into rising again. She is holding him and touching him and inviting him to join her in something only ever dimly imagined, or entertained- their pleasure in this dark dance. He makes love to her with an excitement barely contained, and comes quickly.

The three lay their in the silence for some time, breathing in each others' light.

V awoke from the dreaming. Out the window was nothing but an extended metropolis. Windows looking out to other windows as far as the eye could see.

She had a steaming shower. There was a television screen built into the bathroom wall playing the nightly news. A woman singer, a former Australian, had been appointed as the United Nations Ambassador for the Environment. On tv she said she had become interested in the area when she realised that her daughter would inherit an earth she was no longer proud of. The singer looked very young. Although she was middle aged, she had the face and expression of a twelve year old girl. She had highlights dyed into her blond hair which made her appear to be in a permanent spotlight.

After dressing in cool wool V headed out onto the street. Certain of the destination she could have taken a taxi but chose instead to jump on a street car as it veered around a corner. It took off at lighting speed towards the other side of the island. Soon it was soaring above the clouds.

V was watching the city unfold when a white-haired white biddy started addressing whoever's attention she could catch. "I stopped smoking four years ago, couldn't have a cigarette now, oh " she shook her head and gazed watery blind blue eyes intently into V. V looked back at her and saw cancer. The poor old animal, airlifted from one situation to another, kept alive by stocks and bonds wisely invested at some other historic moment, hanging grimly onto life above the clouds.

The streetcar hit the earth with a thud, like a full bodybag in this life during wartime.

V walked on through an immense park, crossed with avenues of trees losing their leaves. In its centre was an elaborate building from another time, standing on its head. Resource efficient, the empty space filled with water when the precious rains came as well as doubling for a museum piece. A wordstring "The Victorian Era" was wrapped in laser-light around the base of the building 50 metres above sea level.

The structure's pure gold dome delicately supported the crushing weight like a supplicants hands.

Take eat

This is my body I give unto you

My blood pours forth

Take drink

the clear water piped from the bearer to a fountain symmetrically placed directly in front of the dome.

V had followed the path around as it circled the fountain.

In the long central avenue of trees leading to the city, she noticed a camera crew setting up a shot, waiting for the sun to recede ever so slightly so that the fountain in front of the dome would turn that particular shade of pink gold so loved by the postcard market.

She walked by them, and by an older man with white hair and a light blue cable knit jumper and navy trousers and a furtive look on his face with his hands down the front of his pants, sitting on a bench.

All the other benches that lined the tree-lined avenue leading to the city were empty, save for a woman in black some distance away with her back turned.

Something impossible was occurring. Immeasurable grief.

V strayed from the path. The grass green with its sparse layer of dead leaves. The colours soft of the trees bare in lament. Slightly shivering.

V's body wandered aimlessly into the grassy field, hemmed by avenues and noise and relics of lost things. The camera crew clicked from her mind. She was utterly alone, stumbling and falling. Eventually falling somewhere onto the soft grass with such a wrenching grief. Unspeakable. Rivers of tears flowing to the grass and some sound, not human from her throat with her hand on her face's soft skin and the exhausted tears in her mouth and the trees bearing up, proudly.

Eventually crossing the road to the city, after some time, and noticing how grubby it all was, even though it had looked so shiny in the distance. Shabby. Her hand touched the dirt on the mantelpiece, and she wondered WHO HERE DOES THE HOUSEWORK?

A voice boomed out, we do WE do We have forever WE are the OPPRESSED! We are oppressed by them! This was booming out of a megaphone from the mouth of a woman daubed in ochres.

'From the womb juice comes the rich mulch of the earth, regenerating and creating itself over and over in an endless cycle of WOMAN'

Oh God thought V, seventies performance art...

V comes from a world where 'womb juice' signifies faulty hardware.

how will the body become obsolete

what are the implications

what will we be

what is the direction of the narrative

back to what

So all you've got now is a thirty-year old woman in a crazy town, and a conviction to live out your life in ficcion.

"I don't want a valediction down a long distance phone-line' he said, angrily

too much twin peaks in my life she thought and stumbled off into the night

V just needed to eat a tamarillo. Desires as simple as these often propel the characters in any given situation into new worlds. Because she thought that inside the holy gates she could find salvation, in she stepped.

"Its perfectly obvious to see where you're coming from' a HUGE VOICE boomed.

The city was magnificent. In her eyes, mirrors to live behind and dream of a perfect day. Dreaming of the one not yet met she walked on. It takes courage to walk in the dark, or to allow a friend to lead you with eyes closed, pretending to be blind. Except here V was all alone. Magnificent.

The spiritual dimension in Australia "evades all expression and embodiment, and yet remains the mystery relativising everything and inviting us to something more".