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9 May to 2 June 2012


The WW2 Australian Army Base at Bonegilla in North Eastern Victoria, was the first migrant reception centre in Australia. It opened in 1947. The initial occupants were displaced persons from Europe, and their acceptance was due to Australia’s commitment to the United Nations as an institution. In 1951, Bonegilla became a true ‘migrant reception centre’ when the first assisted migrants were received. The camp was closed in 1971, after accommodating over 300,000 people from many countries.

Block 19 of the Camp is still there, but is now a heritage site, being listed in 2007. There are parallel rows of long gable-roofed buildings, clad in corrugated iron, a sample of the 850 buildings built for the army by 1942. For the host culture these buildings were utilitarian, with agrarian and leisure associations. For displaced persons, the “flotsam and jetsam of Europe” (as a host Australian puts it in a film clip showing at the Interpretation Centre), the huts must have looked familiar in ways that the hosts couldn’t imagine.

The regularity of the striated walls and roofs would have also been a contrast to the mixed memories and dreams brought to the buildings by the “flotsam and jetsam”. According to Arthur Caldwell, who was the Minister for Immigration from 1945-1949, the new arrivals would “become Australians in five years”. Through English classes, visits by the CWA and other groups, the camp was seen as a machine for making Australians. The camp probably delayed the process: the real work of making Australians was done by the suburban block, by the sports oval, the caravan, the beach, the factory, and the school, and took longer. And the dispersed machinery that made Australians was also altered in the process.

These works were inspired by the ‘”flotsam and jetsam” comment from the film clip mentioned above. They present images of occupation and dispersal, where this is done in a foreign place. The works use images of the Bonegilla barracks building in plan and end elevation as the base for various manipulations. Chairs are also subject to alteration. Generally, the buildings could be considered as standing for groups of people, and the chairs for individuals.

flotsamandjetsam is the fourth group of my WOG works to be made public. Five Decades (architectural models, drawings and texts) was part of my PhD by Creative Work at the University of Melbourne in 2008; How are Things at Home? (architectural models and drawings, and other drawings) was exhibited in Geelong Art Gallery in 2008; and Ideal City (drawings and objects) was shown at Place Gallery in 2011.

flotsamandjetsam 2007-2012


Alex Selenitsch 2004 Exhibition
Alex Selenitsch 2006 Exhibition
Alex Selenitsch 2008 Exhibition
Alex Selenitsch 2010 Exhibition
Alex Selenitsch 2011 Exhibition
Alex Selenitsch 2013 Exhibition