Barbara Campbell, Conradiana, 1994, installation comprising typewriter text on twenty Chinese rice paper scrolls and video, scrolls 457.2 x 30.5 each, video 5:43 minutes. Griffith University Art Collection. Acquired with the assistance of the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding advisory body. Courtesy the artist.Image: Silversalt Photography

Barbara Campbell, a performance and installation artist has used text as the starting point for her large-scale installation Conradania, in this case Joseph Conrad’s acclaimed novel The Heart of Darkness published in 1899 and set on the Congo River in Africa, which the film Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is based on.

Campbell read Notes (1979) written by Eleanor Coppola, the wife of Francis Ford Coppola, which record her observations of the making of the film. This text records the difficult conditions the film crew were working within, and the mental exhaustion and stress suffered by cast and crew. Eleanor noted her daughter’s reaction to the film set in the Philippines as being like the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. It is from this point of juxtaposition between the real and unreal from one culture to another that Campbell began the solitary performative work of Conradania.

Campbell spent eight weeks typing out The Heart of Darkness word for word on twenty 15ft lengths of Chinese rice paper. She then filmed the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland, which is played on a small screen in front of the hanging rice paper. Her ironic and humorous installation started with a fascination with text that developed into a critique of masculinity and Western Europe’s exoticism of other cultures.

By honing her idea, she makes room for audiences’ viewpoints by planning for her intention not to dominate their apprehension of the structure of the work. She may be arranging and orchestrating its intertwined narratives but she is not ‘telling’ the story.

— Jasmin Stephens, curator, far and wide:Narrative into Idea

Read more about Barbara Campbell’s practice