Wish you were here

an exhibition by Therese Ritchie and Chips Mackinolty 2003

 
 

Wish you were here gives us 15 postcards from the edge of ambivalence about living in the Northern Territory. If the Northern Territory is defined by anything it is the transience of its non-Aboriginal populations—whether we are passing through from Heidelberg in Germany or are temporary refugees from Heidelberg, Victoria.

For 150 years, the Territory has been represented by traveler’s tales—not the travels of the ancestral beings of its Traditional Owners, but the yarns of much later visitors. In earlier days, people like Jeannie Gunn, Ernestine Hill and Bill Harney Snr, told tall tales and true through journalism and books. In these busier times it is through past cards and e-mails.

From the 1980s tourist commission slogan—Tell a tourist where to go—the Territory has become increasingly dependent on and vulnerable to the development of techniques of attracting people and their money to the place. At the same time, many wonder if it is really all that much fun trying to drive down Mitchell Street at night. Or grinding slowly behind caravan convoys down the Track. Or finding a favourite, isolated camping spot to find it is occupied by warriors from the Moonee Ponds 4WD Appreciation Club. Is the new railway an exercise in nation building—or the railway ties that bind us to a future of mass travel and subservience to the service industry?—just ask any barmaid being groped in your average Irish bar.

And of course the imagery that is generated by the tourist industry is as alien to real life as the backpackers crowding the mall flogging Kombi vans to each other, while they yearn for a truly authentic experience—just ask Peter Falconio. Just go to the tourist shop—Therese Ritchie did, and these are the post cards she didn’t—but should have—discovered. From the ubiquitous Three dusky maidens to Anti–social behaviour this is the kind of marketing that really lurks behind the way Territorians should be seen. After all, the statistics tell us 70 per cent of visitors are seeking an interaction with Indigenous Territorians. And there you have it—for better or worse, we’re here in this curious corner of ambivalence, of loves, and lost loves—we wish you were here.