Thursday, April 11, 2013

Incident at Hanging Rock

by Gregg Chadwick

At the Hanging Rock  by William Ford (1820–1886)
1875, oil on canvas, 79.2 x 117.5 cm
Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria

As March drew to a close, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band played a concert that Australian music writers have lauded. I wish I could have been there to see Springsteen and the band rip it up at Hanging Rock. 

Incident on 57th Street in Australia 
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 
Live at Hanging Rock - Second Night - 31-03-2013

 Major international musicians often perform outdoor concerts at the Hanging Rock reserve. Leonard Cohen graced the venue in 2010 and last month Springsteen performed two shows at the conclusion of the Australian leg of his 'Wrecking Ball' tour. The musical venue at Hanging Rock is temporary and currently used about once a year for large concerts. 

Though I have spent quite a bit of time travelling through Australia over the years, I have not been to Hanging Rock in person. But, I have been there in the visions of painting and film, especially Peter Weir's remarkable Picnic at Hanging Rock. Weir's film, based on the novel by Australian author Joan Lindsay, focuses on a group of girls at a fictional Australian women's college  who vanish during a Valentine's Day picnic at Hanging Rock in 1900.

Roger Ebert described Picnic at Hanging Rock as "a film of haunting mystery and buried sexual hysteria" and remarked that it "employs two of the hallmarks of modern Australian films: beautiful cinematography and stories about the chasm between settlers from Europe and the mysteries of their ancient new home." That chasm between European culture and indigenous Australia especially revolves around the conception of time. Joan Lindsay in her autobiography, Time Without Clocks, describes how these mysteries felt to her:

"There were certain days when I sat at my typewriter in the empty green-aired room feeling like a deep-sea fish suspended in its natural element. Not only in my fish tank but outside in the sheltered valley all natural objects seemed in a state of suspension as they do immediately before an earthquake. It was a characteristic of the Marsh and perhaps had something to do with the old volcanoes seething and boiling so far below the earth’s crust that even the geologists hadn’t discovered them." 

- Joan Lindsay,  p124 (Time Without Clocks)

Art in all its guises evokes the mysteries of time and the most compelling creations leave the questions unanswered.

The Darkness - Leonard Cohen
Live at Hanging Rock - 21-11-2010

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