Awful Windmills : Landscape and Power in Australia

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)22_Publication in policy or professional journal

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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationRunway Australian Experimental Art
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 2017


In 2015, Prime Minister Tony Abbott in conversation with radio host Alan Jones, described wind farms as “visually awful” while Jones repeated unsubstantiated claims that wind farms caused health problems for local residents. In making this aesthetic argument, Abbott and Jones connected the modes of exploitation Australia enacts to produce power, from the fossil fuels to the renewables industries, to how it evaluates landscape as an aesthetic object.

At a time when political alliances in the Australian landscape are fracking and recombining themselves at a rapid rate, the strangeness of two political figures discussing what looks good in a landscape invites a reexamination of how Australian art is imagining landscape. Considering that the British objectification of landscape drew its inspiration from 17th century Dutch paintings of windmills, the disgust that Abbott and Jones encouraged in their listeners also spoke to the ways in which much landscape art still relies on a fetishising of Nature, whilst climate change pushes us past the point where landscape can be treated as our aesthetic folly.

This essay examines how Abbott and Jones’s aesthetic critique of windmills in the landscape relates to the conceptions of landscape suggested by a broad pass over Australian art. It looks at what other value systems are evidenced in contemporary art production, and how they might support future possibilities for power and landscape in Australia

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