Curated by Vikki McInnes

Erewhon is the return of Neverwhere, an exhibition that travelled to Istanbul last year, commissioned by Asialink as part of the Australia Year in Turkey. Neverwhere presented the work of eight contemporary Australian artists that disturbed distinctions between our real and imagined selves, and between the authentic and the fantastical. Narratives were informed by external – and often mysterious – forces, both seen and unseen. The exhibition shifted registers between sincerity and satire although its propensity was to shadowy psychological turns. And it is farther in this direction – towards the darker, more charged imaginings – that the work in Erewhon leads us.

More correctly, of course, Erewhon is the (not quite syntactically correct) return of ‘Nowhere’ and title of a novel by Samuel Butler, first published anonymously in 1872. Erewhon was set in a fictional eponymous country – though one that strongly resembled the south of New Zealand in which Butler lived as a young man. The story provided a satire (and philosophical exploration) of various aspects of Victorian society, most notably crime and punishment, religion and science. For example, according to Erewhonian law, offenders were treated as if they were ill, whereas ill people were looked upon as criminals. Another feature of Erewhon was the absence of machines due to the widely shared belief by the Erewhonians that they were potentially dangerous. These ideas – among others (technological progress, the impossibility of utopias, the effects of colonization, discipline and control) – form both the thesis and the point of departure for the exhibition Erewhon.

The exhibition launched at Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Victorian College of the Arts, the University of Melbourne from 2 September to 2 October 2016 and tours to Horsham Regional Art Gallery, Warrnambool Art Gallery, Benalla Art Gallery and Latrobe Regional Gallery.


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