a rather gross materialism      completed her relapse into irritability
The Webbs’ Australian Diary 1898: cut and erased 

10 August > 10 September 2023

In this exhibition, writer and researcher Lucinda Strahan presents a suite of posters, each a collage pairing image and text extracted from the colonial record The Webbs’ Australian Diary 1898.

For Strahan, the Webb’s Diary, which draws upon the colonial legacy of local histories, provides a container to come to terms with her position and experience as a ‘well-to-do’ settler Australian woman. Through the playful process of what she calls "poetic erasure", Strahan reinterprets the source text through a series of cunning redactions that remake, reimagine and subvert the subjectivities and cultural narratives of the Webb’s Diary. 

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Please note > we apologise for any inconvenience, the Linden Projects Space is not wheelchair accessible.

IMAGES > Lucinda Strahan, (detail) from the series 'a rather gross materialism completed her relapse into irritability: The Webbs’ Australian Diary 1898 cut and erased’, 2023. Poetic erasure, poster print. [Top] Photograph: Emma Byrnes.
Images courtesy of the artist.

IMAGE > Lucinda Strahan, (detail) from the series ' a rather gross materialism completed her relapse into irritability: The Webbs’ Australian Diary 1898 cut and erased’, 2023. Poetic erasure, poster print. Images courtesy of the artist.

Xeroxed onto paste-up posters that extend beyond the gallery walls to appear outdoors on billboards scattered across local sites, Strahan’s work harnesses the radical energy, DIY ethos and countercultural spirit of punk and feminism, transforming her posters into public interventions that challenge the colonial voice by dismantling the language through which it is sustained.

I was first drawn to the voice of Beatrice Webb when she was quoted in another historical text, saying of the “well-to-do women” of Australia: “certainly these colonial women are in an unpleasant stage of development…vapid in talk without public spirit or intellectual sympathies” they were “uncommonly inferior to the men” and “the least worthy product of Australia”. The weird misogyny of this statement felt familiar and historically true, and its absurd almost Wildean turn of phrase made me laugh out loud. I immediately started searching for the source text.

Beatrice and Sidney Webb were well-known British public intellectuals. They were socialists and labour reformers; affluent leftists who co-founded the London School of Economics. The Webbs took great interest in the colonial “experiment”, and during their journey to Australia in 1898, met and spoke with almost all the leading political and social figures of the time. The Webbs’ Australian Diary 1898 is their travel journal, published posthumously in the 1950s.

The diary is, as I had hoped, a gold mine of found-words. Beatrice Webb’s impressions of Australian society, its ruling class, its political leaders and industrial barons, are expressed in anachronistic language that frequently tips into camp. But her expertise as a sociologist and political scientist means that even her blatant bad-moodism carries historical weight.

As it turns out, it was not just the wealthy colonial women who gave Beatrice Webb the shits during her visit. Almost everything else did too. As I worked with the text of the diary, I found myself identifying with her cranky observations about the “rather gross” materialism of the emerging society—exceedingly rich and anti-intellectual, gorging on mining, led by dull men. Her frequent “relapse into irritability” reminded me of my own despairing moments over the contemporary social and political climate. In this way I began to identify with Beatrice Webb’s voice, and her
straight-talking insults even as I disagreed with her views on women, on race and her obvious acceptance of the colony as ‘terra nullius’.

Lucinda Strahan, 2023

Lucinda Strahan is a writer and researcher of expanded nonfiction. Her practice spans material and literary-visual methodologies as well as lyric auto-ethnographic and personal essaying, collective writing and digital publishing experiments, academic and journalistic nonfiction. She is Writing in Residence at Linden New Art and Program Leader and Editor of Writing in the Expanded Field at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Lucinda is a lecturer at RMIT in the School of Media and Communication and a researcher in the non/fictionLab.

Poetic Erasure Workshop

Saturday 19 Aug 1 > 4pm

Walking Tour

Sunday 3 Sept 11am > 12:30pm

Linden Projects Space is generously supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, City of Port Phillip
and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. 

This project has been supported by the City of Port Phillip through the Cultural Development Fund.

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