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Aliens And UFOs In Contemporary Art

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2007 19:14:24 -0500
Archived: Tue, 11 Dec 2007 19:14:24 -0500
Subject: Aliens And UFOs In Contemporary Art

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald - New South Wales, Australia


December 11, 2007


Artists are inspired by UFO sightings on Sydney's doorstep.

Genre     Multimedia, Painting and Drawing
Location  Penrith Regional Gallery and the Lewers Bequest
Address   86 River Rd, Emu Plains
Date      8 December 2007 to 17 February 2008

Phone Bookings (02) 4735 1100
Online Bookings www.penrithregionalgallery.org


The Visitors: Aliens And UFOs In Contemporary Art
Erik Jensen

In 1868 a floating ark, filled with paper and piloted by a
neutral-coloured spirit, abducted surveyor Frederick Birmingham
and took him to the highest point of Parramatta Park, kindly
returning him to awake in his own home. Birmingham had another
UFO sighting in 1873 and became so obsessed with the phenomenon
he set down his experiences in a book.

By 1950, Katoomba and the surrounding Blue Mountains had become
a hotbed of extraterrestrial sightings - a flap, to use the
ufological term. Fever was such that the happenings made the
front page of the Herald and the RAAF was put on standby with a
warning not to provoke the aliens. Since then, incidents have
become frequent enough to inspire a new exhibition at the
Penrith Regional Gallery.

"My sons were out at a place they call the Ruined Castle at
Faulconbridge, a derelict house out in a paddock. They saw what
they described as a huge mothership going over," Vernon
Treweeke, an artist participating in the Penrith show, says of
his experiences.

"It went over and it was silent, they didn't hear anything until
it had passed. It must have been very high in the atmosphere.
Obviously, it might have been in space. Hard to tell. They
described it as having some sort of symbol underneath it, a
large sort of hieroglyph type of thing. It had portholes as

The curtains on Treweeke's house, in bushland at Hazelbrook, are
drawn. The entire building is blacked-out and he answers the
door with a pair of 3D glasses in his hand. Downstairs, in a
basement-studio, he activates a series of ultraviolet lights.
With the glasses and the fluorescent paint on his canvases,
parts of the work start to morph. Blues sink into the background
and oranges reach forward.

"Prismatic Fresnels," he says, referring to the beam-splitting
lenses he wears. Treweeke works with colour perspective and the
effects of fluorescence, painting the reaches of his imagination
in a process he likens to Einstein's theoretical physics. A
product of the space race, and of London psychedelia in the
1960s, he believes art can push reality in directions science is
unable to explore.

"It is a return to a visionary awareness. Artists used to be
visionaries, they used to paint angels and gods. They had this
visionary role and then they became just like cameras with
paint," he says.

"We've been through a cycle. The movies have been doing it and
people are ready for it in art. The artists as visionaries can
actually explore the future and sort of report on it before it

Anne Loxley, co-curator of The Visitors, mounted the show when
she realised how many contemporary artists were working within
the realms of ufology and how prevalent sightings were on the
outskirts of Sydney. "I hadn't even seen the UFOs in Tim
Johnson's paintings until it was pointed out," she says of the

The show is weighted towards believers, with only one sceptic
among the 15 artists, though that is not how Loxley planned it.
"It's only weighted towards art of quality. I was surprised by
the believers. If it was a show about believing, it would be put
on by a UFO society."

Loxley is not a believer - "too emotionally and psychologically
fragile to let that be part of my life" - but describes herself
as an enthusiast. She is compelled by the repetition of accounts
and what she calls seductive and persuasive geological evidence
in the Blue Mountains.

The show itself, however, was curated with scholarly
responsibility. Prominent ufologist Bill Chalker was
commissioned for a catalogue essay and the exhibition furnished
with an evidence room of accounts, photographs and DNA

Chalker prides himself on forensics - he is a chemist by
training - and dismisses the majority of sightings as mis-
identifications. But for all the false alarms and questionable
witnesses, he has proof enough to believe. "Historically, from
the 1950s to now, there have been thousands of sightings [in the
Blue Mountains]," he says. "In terms of unexplained sightings,
there has been less than 100 but even that is a compelling

Chalker, who has been working in the field for 40 years, looks
first at the planets to explain most sightings - dismissing
those things that are probably Jupiter or a comet. But if an
event is unexplainable - better still, part of a pattern or
leaving behind evidence - Chalker will consider it positively.

He is fastidious to the extent that certain accounts in the
exhibition catalogue were footnoted with his disapproval, though
the Blue Mountains have his certification as a hot spot. Chalker
says ufology is marginalised by a lack of funding and the fact
many practitioners approach it from an armchair vantage. There
is too much data for most to wade through and doing so is no way
to advance a scientific career.

"Eyewitness testimony often puts people away in jail," Chalker
says, "but when it comes to UFO sightings that same testimony is
deemed uncountable."

This is where art emerges, taking the reins at the point science
must leave them. "The other side of it is that the solutions to
these sort of sets of problems are always artistic," David
Haines, who is participating in the exhibition with partner
Joyce Hinterding, says. "At the end of the day, we're very happy
for art to also fabricate and construct the world as much as
receive factual inputs. For us, we're also melding this material
into fictional constructions."

Haines and Hinterding head into the night to record sounds the
human ear cannot. "It's a sort of folk science," Haines says of
the antennas and makeshift oscillators.

The work does not interpret the data, meshing the sound with
video but leaving the audience to find what Hinterding calls
coherences. After living in the Mountains for four years, both
artists agree the prevalence of sightings has something to do
with the region's association with counter-culture. Treweeke, on
the other hand, believes the watching is related to elevation
and clear skies - a point Loxley echoes, if not out of
politeness for the people involved.

For Chalker, who has spent so long fighting for legitimacy, the
question is too hard to answer: there is a hot spot but to
explain it would be to solve half the problems with which his
science grapples. However, he does not view the interpretations
of artists as undermining his science - people think popular
culture inspires sightings but it is the other way around.

That much is true for Haines, whose interest is piqued by other
people's accounts and an open mind.

"It's the desire also, I think, for extra-reality. It's very
easy to be dragged into the everyday. A lot of artists have
spent a lot of energy trying to elevate the everyday but I think
that artists are always seeking the extraordinary," he says. "I
haven't spoken to anyone who has directly seen it but I've
spoken to a lot of people who've looked for it and even that's
interesting. It's an act of desire as much as anything, it's
wanting to see it."

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