Kris­tian Laemmle-Ruff, Woomera – Melissa Pesa

Woomera

Art Almanac - - Contents - Melissa Pesa

Over the past 70 years, many have heeded the warn­ings posted along the perime­ters of the Woomera Pro­hib­ited Area (WPA), the largest and most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced weapons test­ing range in the world. How­ever, with re­stric­tion comes cu­rios­ity. In ‘Woomera’, Kris­tian Laemm­leRuff sheds light on this ques­tion­able and highly con­fi­den­tial place.

The core of your prac­tice lies in the ‘in­ves­ti­ga­tion of con­tem­po­rary sites of colo­nial­ism and mil­i­tarism in Aus­tralia’. What drew you to Woomera?

I feel a call­ing to ex­plore these places partly be­cause of how lit­tle they are talked about in main­stream cul­ture. The fact that de­fence ar­eas are re­mote, highly se­cre­tive and re­stricted means that a void ex­ists around them. It is in these ‘off-lim­its’ spa­ces where I find op­por­tu­nity to start a con­ver­sa­tion and cre­ate aware­ness. I want my work to be part of a greater di­a­logue around learn­ing our true his­tory. I think it’s im­por­tant as a na­tion to choose un­der­stand­ing over ig­no­rance. Art can help us make this choice. The sub­text un­der­ly­ing much of my work is en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to ques­tion the role these mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties have in our so­ci­ety. Who do they re­ally serve? What im­pact do they con­tinue to have on peo­ple and ecol­ogy? How could we trans­form these spa­ces to sup­port life and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions rather than the ‘progress’ of mil­i­tary cor­po­ra­tions and em­pire?

What were you hop­ing to cap­ture, and what was the re­sult?

In­side the WPA I found sur­pris­ing tran­quil­ity and beauty: rolling red sand dunes, bril­liant salt-lakes mir­ror­ing open skies, mobs of emus roam­ing through Mulga scrub. How­ever, all of

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