The coming Australian summer of 2007 - 2008 (from 8 December 2007 to 17 February 2008) will have an unusual and intriguing attraction - The Visitors: The Australian response to aliens and UFOs - "a multi-faceted artistic examination of the ufology phenomenon featuring the work of sixteen contemporary artists. Material documenting a selection of the most authenticated UFO cases in Australia is presented in 'evidence' rooms," writes curator Anne Loxley and artist Regina Walter in their essay for the exhibition catalogue - Close Encounters of the Contemporary Kind. The exhibition is housed at the Penrith Regional Gallery & Lewers Bequest at 86 River Road, Emu Plains, New South Wales, at the foot of the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney.
My essay for the catalogue - The OZ Files Unbound - looks at the UFO mystery and some of the evidence presented in the evidence room at the gallery. I have worked closely with the gallery to present a cross section of evidence of UFO cases that span Australia from 1868 to 2007 - 139 years of extraordinary events - "a potent expression of the visitor experience."
The gallery has a beautiful outlook over the Nepean River. It is fitting that just down the river back in January 1966 just days before Australia was smitten by news of the Tully UFO "nest" encounter a man and his two young sons camping beside the river had a remarkable experience. An intense light appeared outside their tent. The man and one of the sons went to investigate and saw a large disc shaped object with a revolving turret hovering above the water about 100 metres away. The object had oval "portholes" and an arc blue light was emanating from within it. The craft went through a series of colour changes before vanishing in the darkness. My friend David Reneke (now news editor of the excellent publication Sky & Space - Australia's best astronomy magazine) for our group UFO Investigation Centre in 1979 when the witnesses came forward. David's sketch closely based on the witness originals is shown here.
From the UFO evidence to the alien expression the Visitors exhibition captures the UFO and alien phenomenon in potent ways. An example of the artwork on display is Tony Albert's wonderful AustrALIEN - Alien holding 3 spears - a reworking of souvenir-style image from a set of playing cards. Tony Albert's use of the alien theme is metaphorical but he explains that his interest is in "both idigenous and non-idigenous Australian identity and the notion of 'Australia' itself." This is just one of the wonderful works that feature in this fascinating exhibition.
David Reneke/UFOIC - sketch of Penrith 1966 UFO - copyright UFOIC