HIGHWAY TO THE WILDERNESS
Obviously we love it when our ex CCAS studio residents go on to produce amazing exhibitions and Highway to the Wilderness which opened at ANCA last night was one such occasion. Anja Loughhead’s ripper new show is a conceptual masterpiece that deals with what is a common issue in multi cultural Australia – reconnecting with the land of your ancestors. Anja returned to Finland, armed with romantic notions and a cache of flimsy stereotypes developed many miles away from the original source. Highway to the Wilderness looks at impressions of Finland gleaned from books, stories and images throughout Anja’s life time which are then tested in everyday situations encountered on her return. The results are hilarious as Anja uncovers her struggle to come to terms with the realities of a situation that has previously existed only in fantasy or hearsay. Her view master reels containing 3D images of Finland in the 1960s for instance show how images are formed and distorted through time. With a version of Finlandia on an old record or through away lines about Vodka and saunas scribbled in books Anja creates a picture that is self mocking and poignant while also producing an incisive picture of a common experience for many second generation Australians.
On the day when Canberra received its first dusting of snow much of the opening conversation centred on how it’s not as bad as Finland (nowhere near actually) and the social pages gave precedence to people wearing headwear.
Postscript: Highway to the Wilderness is one of the many success stories of the Australia Council’s Art Start program that provided funds for emerging artists to develop their careers. Anja used some of the funds she received to explore her heritage in Finland and the vibrant art scene that has developed there in recent times. Unfortunately Art Start was abandoned last year.