Constructivist Colonial Landscape (Tasmania’s jackass)

Dacelo novaeguineae (Laughing Kookaburra) was introduced into Tasmania between 1881-1906 by Acclimatisation Societies. Their nineteenth century name was Laughing Jackass. These same societies previously introduced deer, fox, trout and house sparrows. I would argue a shift occurred in Australia when mobilising nonhuman species; from a colonial gesture to a nationalistic one. This painting speculates on the colonial history of nationalism as emblemised through the transportation of kookaburras. The sentence ‘whos laughing jackass’ is used to produce a geometric typography, which then dissects, tessellates, and re-constructs itself as a temporary composition. Much like colonial landscape painting, this work borrows form, colour and a process of assemblage from a forced truth i.e. the re-constructing of Australia’s natural environment via colonialism and nationalsim. The true colours of the Australian federation may be the tertiary palette of the ‘laughing jackass’ instead of the union jack or the green and gold of the wattle. This painting presents an alternate but true narrative of Launceston’s geometry, a layered sonic landscape of native birds mixed with the colonial laughter of the jackass (kookaburra). Through the history of kookaburras in Tasmania, we can argue that ‘landscape’ was and always will be a construct. Australia remains imagined through a series of fictions.

Fernando do Campo


Acrylic on canvas