Thursday, October 10, 2013


There are many parallels that can be drawn between art and adventure.  They are both romantic ideas that can fill a heart with buoyancy, eyes with fog and a head with so much determination that it endangers the very well being of the individual.  Grand ideas such as risk, frontiers and the unknown, all echo loudly in the opening credits and imbue the audience with a sense of wonder and expectation.  They quiz one another, curious as to whether the artist has realized a true cultural breakthrough or merely presented another walk around the block. 

I am most fond of the idea of adventure in two particular nuances.  Firstly that of boyhood escapades – things like the Huck Finn story, two boys on a raft, set adrift on a whim.   Things like Saturday afternoons spent ushered out of suburban kitchens and into laneways and scrubby fringes to building BMX jumps on vacant blocks and making cubby houses in trees – all of that classical youthful stuff that I lament we may be losing to handheld technologies and a fearful libelous epidemic.  Secondly, I like the kind of adventure that makes the elements of the traditional adventure tale – things like Moby Dick, or Robinson Crusoe where the trusty hero’s path is somehow lost, yet the core of the story requires these very mishaps and the unfolding events for their very existence.

There were times in the world were these tales or myths were the things that made up the very fabric of everyday life.  Various kings, empires, scientists and nutcases have all set forth from their various home corners of the globe to try and discover things – usually riches or glory.  There were, indeed, national institutes of explorers.  Entities such as the National Geographic Society began as a club for an elite group of academics and wealthy patrons interested in travel.  There were people like Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian explorer and writer who was convinced he could sail a raft across the Pacific Ocean between South America and Polynesia.  This supported his theory that ancient civilisations could have done the same. Thor pleaded with these types of walnut paneled institutions to financially support an expedition such as this in much the same way that Australian artists might put forward a case for their own creative expedition to creative funding bodies.  Thor, however, received a letter of rejection in the mail and had to sweet talk a Peruvian despot into privately funding his fantasy.  The expedition eventually went ahead with great success and all of this in the late 1940’s. For those of you interested, there is a great film of the Kon Tiki voyage which was released in 1950 and a half decent dramatization of this story.

There is a riveting example of an Australian artist who took the raft into his own hands, sealing his own rocky fate and an undeniable place in the cultural psyche of our nation.  The Scottish born Ian Fairweather was a typical creative genius loner.  He was well-heeled young man of the world had received a bunch of high level art training and was, by all accounts, quite talented.  Not long after our friend Thor Heyerdahl completed his Pacific crossing in the Kon Tiki, Mr Fairweather found himself living on the beach in Darwin.  He hatched a plot to build himself a raft and sail it across to Indonesia and set off under cover of darkness one evening so as not to be restrained by local (safey concerned) authorities.  Fairweather promptly disappeared and was considered lost at sea.  He did wash ashore later, though news of this, for various reasons, took a long time to return to Australia.  Suffice to say, Fairweather’s adventures were many, varied and intense and worth pursuing.

Here’s a little clip of the man himself.
And a great clip of New Zealand artist Mike Stevenson telling Fairweather’s story by way of the artwork he has made in homage to the man and his extended journey.

Perhaps these have contemporary manifestations in popular media in the form of shows such as Lost, Survivor or Bear Grylls (who has made an appearance previously in this blog.)  I would also say that the unknown in the world and inquiry into it, as represented by my superhero, David Attenborough, might be a good example to note of my kind of televisual adventure.  David’s frontiers are combined in both that of the physicality of the planet and those of our nominal understanding of the magical life forms that inhabit it.   And so, it seems, adventure requires a solid sense of investigation.

It has become clearer to me over the period of this project that I am quite interested in looking for intersections between adventure and art.  I like the idea of analogies that can be drawn between the motivations, ideals and actions of both artistic and adventurist undertakings.  They are clearly both endeavors of passion that are not the path well trodden.

There are a couple of Aussie artists that I would like to mention in closing.  Patrick Wundke is a young Adelaide based artist who has taken it upon himself to pursue urban camping. Sometimes this is in places where he simply plonks himself but, more often, he finds himself refuge in people’s yards via way of door knocking and asking if it is ok. More of Patrick's action here –

I have to include the wonderful Australian photographer Murray Fredericks.  Of course Murray comes to the surface because he has various bicycles at the centre of his creative adventures.  That is not to deny for a minute the amazing photographs he captures whilst camped at the centre of Lake Eyre for days at a time.  You can see some of his greattimelapse work and a little doco of his processes here.

And to sign off – my favourite cartoon of the moment, for those of you who are as yet unaware of it’s pure brilliance – Adventure Time!


  1. You might like to look at the life of artist Bas Jan Ader, who also disappeared at sea in Search of the Miraculous.