Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Re: DVD & Truganini video

redzed84 redzed84@yahoo.com
Fri, 2 Aug 2002 09:28:34 -0700 (PDT)

Rhonda wrote:

>2.  I couldn't wait for the NTSC version so I had
ordered the PAL one from Whammo last spring...does
anyone else who obtained it either there
or elsewhere around the same time notice something is
wrong with the sound in Bedlam Bridge?  Wondering if
they had a bad batch or something.
 I'll probably pick up the NTSC version at some
point...was anything added to this one that wasn't on
the PAL version?  

I couldn't either, so I bought the PAL all-region from
artistdirect.com last year. However, I'm playing it
through a very_old television set so I'm grateful for
any sound...
Just saw the NTSC DVD at both my local BestBuy and
Borders books ($14.99!) and it seems to be the same.
The "bonus track" is apparently Redneck Wonderland. 
(By the way, NTSC & PAL are just color systems
((??help here?)) so if you load your PAL DVD into your
friend's NTSC player, it plays in black & white...US
Forces looks great in B/W - obviously don't try this
with One Country :-P  )

A while back, I came across a paper entitled
"Truganini, Midnight Oil, and the Appropriation of
Signs". Here is an excerpt describing the video:

>"Turnbull's account of the 'Black War' labels
Truganini 'the last of all the Tasmanians', a notion
that has gained popular acceptance and was reiterated
in the notes accompanying the release of Midnight
Oil's single Truganini.

The lyrics of the song Truganini deal primarily with
the problems of contemporary white Australia, and
the need for change.

"The backbone of this country's broken, the land is
cracked and the man is sore. Farmers are hanging on
by their fingertips. We cursed and stumbled across
that shore, what for?
And look hard work don't get you nowhere. You just go
round and round in debt. Somebody's got you
on that treadmill baby, I hope you're not beaten yet."

The verses outline some of the problems faced by the
worker, the orinary bloke, in modern Australian
society. The chorus puzzles over popular support for a
continuation of British rule over Australia, citing
the fate of Namatjira and Truganini:

"I see Namatjira in custody, I see Truganini in
and asserts a need for change:
"I see the Union Jack in flames. Let it burn."

The video draws heavily on Australian mythology.
Opening with an archetypal shot of the Australian
landscape, blue sky, red earth, white trunked
eucalypts framing a road train 'headed nowhere', the
visuals go on to recall and reinforce popular myths of
Australianness. Henry Lawson's drover's wife is
chopping wood, the rusted truck of the Birdsville mail
carrier from Back of Beyond forms a backdrop for
the band's performance.

The image of the pioneer battling to forge a living
from the land is one of the central myths of
traditional Australia, we grew up eulogising his
physical toughness, his harmony with nature, his
invincibility against seemingly overwhelming odds. The
Oils call up these signs of 'true' Australianness in a
republican anthem.

The band performs against a background of fire and
sun, suggesting the burning of the cane fields and
the sunrise over Uluru, an Australia whose harshness
is cathartic. That which destroys also renews.
The dominant red, yellow and black in these scenes
are, perhaps not coincidentally, the colours of the
Aboriginal flag.

The urban ritualisation of contemporary life is
depicted visually as the source of economic and social
ills. Scenes reminiscent of Metropolis show workers
massed in factories at poker machines, gambling that
their days work will make them a living, businessmen
in three piece suits scourge blue singleted workers
at a treadmill, and go back to sipping martinis,
montaged city streetscapes of towering skyscrapers are
dramatically contrasted with an alternative way of
life - women in print frocks and straw hats walk
liltingly through waist high grass.

The clip pans rapidly through the walkways of a
postmodern museum, ambiguous artworks on the walls,
geological specimens side by side with human skeletons
in individual perspex cases. 'Namatjira' is
encased in perspex, identified by an unreadable sign,
he's wearing the hat and moleskins of a stockman
and carrying a bundle of landscapes under his arm. He
looks directly into the camera as it pans rapidly
past him and across 'Truganini', pausing briefly for a
close up of her eyes staring, without accusation, at
the viewer. Later in the clip 'Namatjira' is depicted
walking through the landscapes of his paintings.
'Truganini' remains in the perspex case, her face
hidden behind a black veil.

Namatjira and Truganini seem to be used as fairly
gratuitous examples of 'injustice' or 'unfairness'.
But as signs of inquity they will be read from the
perspective of the viewer's knowledge of the history
of black/white relations, and from the political left
orientation of the average Oil's fan. The viewer is
invited to identify with Namatjira and Truganini as
victims of the 'system', suggesting that the farmer
and the worker, the ordinary bloke, like Truganini and
Namatjira, have been used and abused by the structures
of politics and economics.

While there has been no public discussion of the
lyrics of the song, or of the connection between
Namatjira, Truganini, and the plight of (mostly white)
farmers and workers in Australia today, the media
reported that the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre were
angered by the liner notes, which described
Truganini as the last Tasmanian Aborigine. Tasmanian
Aborigines have repeatedly had to affirm their
identity in the face of racist claims that there are
no 'full blood', and therefore 'legitimate',
Aborigines in Tasmania.

Gary Morris, the manager of Midnight Oil responded
that Truganini had been used as a "metaphor for
injustice", and was not a "comment on aboriginality".
After discussions with the Tasmanian Aboriginal
Centre Midnight Oil agreed to remove the description
from the liner notes declaring publicly that they
recognised that Tasmania still had a population of
about 7,000 indigenous Australians, and that the claim
that Truganini was the last Aboriginal Tasmanian,
diminished the Aboriginality of these people.

The Oils have long been recognised as a white
Australian band that fosters and promotes Aboriginal
musicianship, and who themselves use Aboriginal
instruments and imagery to deliver an intelligent
polemic in support of Aboriginal rights, and in
promotion of Aboriginal issues. Their empathy
notwithstanding, the appropriation of Aboriginal
history and Aboriginal culture and its re-use in a
white cultural context runs the risk of perpetuating
the cultural exploitation of indigenous

still doesn't answer why it was left out...


Do You Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Health - Feel better, live better