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16 December, 2021

A Haunting

Driving from Gilgandra towards Armatree at night, you may notice an eerie glow coming from what appears to be an old run-down cottage.

By Emily Middleton

A Haunting is situated on the Castlereagh Highway, just before the Armatree turn off. Photo supplied.

The house, visible from the Castlereagh Highway, pulses a red light every night.

If you slow down or get out of the car to look from the highways edge, you can experience the unnerving feeling for yourself.

“A Haunting” is a site-specific artwork by Australian artist Tracey Moffatt.

Sitting on Wailwan Country, Ms Moffatt describes her work as a “lighted vigil”.

It utilises a rundown 1920s house on ‘Sunnyside’ property, and invokes issues around “settlement, domesticity, landscape, and the worldwide pandemic”.

“The 1920s-built house sits on confiscated lands of the Wailwan peoples and other nearby language groups and radiates as if like a dark bloody history that speaks of colonial settlement and of Indigenous skirmishes with pastoralists,” said Ms Moffatt.

“But passing folk might initially view A Haunting in other ways.

“I think it’s sort of like the house is talking. Or breathing.

“It sits campfire-like and honours First Nations peoples on whose land it sits. It spills comforting red beams as if coming from a lighthouse. This art installation can be our sentinel guard, counting down to the hour COVID-19 disappears. The lights can read as frenetic like in an emergency as if coming from an ambulance or a police light.

“Or even a lonesome bordello, completely empty with no customers.”

Ms Moffatt is an internationally acclaimed artist, working mainly in photography and film. Always on the search for new locations, she stumbled upon this farmhouse by accident.

“I was out west in April, and I was looking around and didn’t find what I wanted,” said Ms Moffatt.

“But then I saw the house and I thought, that’s something. That will be something. It already looked like a theatre set, or a crime scene in my vivid imaginations.”

A Haunting is best to be visited alone at night. It is to be viewed from the property fence beside the highway, and no visitors are to venture inside the yard, the driveway, or into the front door.

“There is nothing to see inside the house anyway, just a red void,” said Ms Moffatt.

Ms Moffatt hopes for her work to flow and run for infinity, “like an eternal flame”.

“The house will stay active until COVID-19 disappears off the face of the earth.”

But for now, the house will continue to glow until at least 2023.

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