Dirty Water is an exploration of nuclear activity in Australia. It raises many questions, and powerfully associates them with a shared nostalgia. Nuclear matter has often been tested, mined and dumped on Aboriginal land- with devastating consequences- but it has affected many more Australians, including all of Adelaide when a radioactive cloud from British nuclear tests at Maralinga passed over in October 1956.
In some of the video works, the transport of radioactive materials and nuclear waste through the Australian landscape and via bush highways is cheekily depicted. For instance, in Nuclear Highway barrels of radioactive waste tumble carefree through a small town, past road signs and men mowing a grassy median strip. In other videos, Aboriginal women move through landscapes that have been irrevocably changed by colonisation, their presence highlighting how Indigenous people have been forced to change the way they interact with land that they have been living with harmoniously for many thousands of years.
Having lived in the outback and worked in Aboriginal communities, the political is personal for Alder, but she does not expect everyone to share her concerns. Either way, Dirty Water can be enjoyed as an exhibition of beautiful printed images, moving in both senses of the word.
Excerpts from essay by Annika Harding; photograph by Brenton McGeachie.