Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

VICTORIA COOPER: Shortlisted for National Library Creative Fellowship

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Victoria Cooper researching artists books


I was recently shortlisted for a Creative Fellowship at the National Library of Australia. Even though I was not successful in receiving the fellowship, this level of recognition for my project is very exciting. For a long time I have been dreaming about a project in which I can unleash the bunyip from its exile within the contemporary narrative of children’s books. Muzzled by anthropomorphism, this chimera of the dark swampy corners of Australia may seem to be docile and quaint, but I believe there is still a sublime wildness within–waiting to surface…..


This was my proposal for the National Library of Australia’s Creative Fellowship

The bunyip was once a feared monster of Australian waterways and swamps. In this project I ask: Where is this chimera of Indigenous and early colonial storytelling and myth to be found in contemporary life? Has this fearsome spirit been tamed through parody or clichéd as the mythical swamp creature found only in children’s storybooks or travel brochures?

Perhaps as Henry Rankine, of the Ngarrindjeri tribe in South Australia, proposes in Robert Holden’s 2001 book ‘Bunyips, Australia’s Folklore of Fear’:

‘So the Bunyip (the Mulgewongk) he is still in our Dreamings. He is still there today, just like we have fast jets in the sky, we still have got that fellow in the river’.

Through the opportunity provided by the Creative Fellowship, I had hoped to build upon preliminary research highlighted in my PhD[i] by engaging with the National Library’s substantial collection of material on the bunyip. I had intended to build a visual and textual resource to underpin my development of an alternative concept of the bunyip.

Ultimately this work would form the basis of creative visual narratives that are intended to challenge, re-imagine and re-establish a sense of wonder and respect for this arcane, sublime phenomenon.


Koolunga Bunyip

Victoria Cooper’s artists book “Koolunga Bunyip” 2007 collected by the National Library


The Project Continues:

Strongly guided by the contemporary theory of Solastalgia[ii], both Doug and I plan to continue this research as an integral part of our individual and collaborative practice. Our Nocturne Projects and many bookworks are created in response to the current issues of living with this transforming human/nature relationship.




[i] My research project, I have witnessed a strange river, can be found online at James Cook University research online site: http://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/31799/

[ii] Solastalgia: the distress caused by environmental change

Glenn Albrecht , Gina-Maree Sartore, Linda Connor, Nick Higginbotham, Sonia Freeman, Brian Kelly, Helen Stain, Anne Tonna, Georgia Pollard 
Australasian Psychiatry 
Vol. 15, Iss. sup1, 2007


Written by Cooper+Spowart

November 29, 2015 at 2:22 pm

One Response

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  1. Congratulations – intriguing topic.


    March 20, 2016 at 9:14 am

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