James Newitt

A Plan for Escape

“I replace their desire to return to their homes and cities with the ancient dream of the desert island. Like children, each day they would ask me to repeat for them the description of that island where they would be happy. They began to imagine it vividly, obsessively.” – Adolfo Bioy Casares, ‘A Plan For Escape’, 1975

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A Plan for Escape will be a multi-faceted project that reads the River Derwent as a point of departure into the southern ocean leading towards a small archipelago of uninhabited islands. At its crux the project will explore the act of withdrawal as a potent personal and political gesture infused with a romantic (utopian) human desire for isolation and independence.

A Plan for Escape will be developed on location in Glenorchy, Wilkinson’s Point, the River Derwent and on the remote Maatsuyker group of islands of the South-West coast of Tasmania.

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A Plan for Escape is partly inspired by the true story of Jane Cooper who in 1971, at 17 years of age, came to Tasmania from Melbourne in the hope of finding a way to travel to De Witt Island (also knows as the ‘Big Witch’). Jane was eventually taken to the island by local fishermen where she planned to live for a year in (almost) total solitude. Her small act of withdrawal created controversy in Tasmanian Parliament and she was threatened with forced removal if she did not return to civilisation. She resisted this threat and with the aid of some local fishermen, remained on De Witt Island struggling to achieve the withdrawal she desired in the face of growing public and political interest.

In the work, A Plan for Escape, elements of Jane Cooper’s story will be portrayed in order to delve into an ambivalent experience of withdrawal – one that includes geographical psychological and emotional detachment and severance. A Plan for Escape traces the hesitations, reluctance and fragility of leaving here and going elsewhere, away from North, deep into South.

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In a broader sense, A Plan for Escape questions how we imagine remote islands today, what the idea of the ‘uninhabited’ island allows us to imagine and how an act of withdrawal to such a place might be enacted.

Artist Bio – James Newitt is an Artist based in Tasmania and Portugal. Newitt is a lecturer at the Tasmanian College of the Arts. Newitt’s art practice encompasses media such as video projection, sound and text installation as well as public art projects. He uses methods of engagement and observation to explore the spaces between individual and collective identity, memory and history, fact and fiction as well as public and private space. He works on projects, which often involve extended periods of research into specific social, cultural and environmental contexts and the development of ongoing relationships with individuals and communities. Recent group and solo exhibitions include: Primavera, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2010; If They Fall, Rosalux, Berlin, 2010; The Gallery of Fine Arts, Split, Croatia, 2010; To Catch a Tiger, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 2011; Social Networking, the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, 2012;The Space Between Us: The Anne Landa Award for Video and New Media Arts, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2013; A Sort of Shadow, Lumiar Cite, Lisbon, 2013; Tell Me My Truth, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, 2014; 24 Frames per Second, Carriageworks, Sydney, 2014;

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