Building Mawson

animation: Lisa Roberts
Sydney 2007

drawing: Fred Elliott,
Mawson, 1955

dance: Jonathan Sinatra
Sydney 2007

voice: Yoris Everaerts
Sydney 2007

See also:

Rock under ice


In 1954 and 1955

Fred Elliott worked in Antarctica
to help build Mawson station.
He was also an artist,
and one of the first to climb
and draw the previously uncharted

Masson and Casey Ranges:


Artist, Yoris Everaerts,
sings in response
to one of Fred's drawings
of the rocks:


Dancer, Jonathan Sinatra, improvises,

moving as if entering a new space:


Photographs were taken of the dancer

negotiating a known, urban landscape,
as if for the first time.

Jonathan improvised,

exploring the idea of grounding.

Placing the building bricks on his back
amplifies a sense of strong connection with the earth,
for both the mover and observer.

Testing the limits of his balance

before falling,

he 'poured' his weight into the ground.

The dancer's exploratory gestures

suggest the unexplored Antarctic terrain.

Further improvisations were made
to connect with wind and water,
as if for the first time.

Scraping the earth

of an urban wasteland,

the dancer imagies moving over Antarctic rock.

That he is naked

is unexpected for an icy landscape.

It adds to the elemental atmosphere
I want to convey, to suggest Antarctica.

A naked man runs in the film,

Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner),

set in the elemental space
of the Arctic.



RESPONSE from Fred Elliott

The drawing of Mawson 1955 was made
more as a record than a picture,
but the superimposed figure did set me thinking.
It seemed to be uncertain
about where to place the blocks it was moving,
just as we were in placing the first huts
at the beginning of 1954.
Then, nothing was really known
about drift patterns
except that the drift-bearing winds
would more than likely be from the plateau.
This proved to be the case with roof-high drift
on the northerly side of the buildings.

In 1955 the size of the station was doubled
with the new huts being sited in places
which were suitable for their use,
not likely to be covered in drift
from another up-wind building,
doorways free of drift,
and, of course,on a site where the building
could be easily erected
by a mob of mainly amateurs.
The buildings in the picture
fulfilled these criteria.

Isn't the brain an amazing organ,
being able to accomplish so much
from assimilating completely abstract notions,
and transforming them into sensate form.

Fred Elliott
Melbourne, 10 January 2008