A wonderland of truly wondrous things
That nowhere else upon this Earth are found;
Of reptiles rare, and birds that have no wings,
And animals that live deep in the ground;
And those poor simple children of the Earth,
(A disappearing race you here may meet),
Whom whites have driven from their land of birth
To regions still untrod by booted feet.1
Danie Mellor’s (re)creation of this gleefully contrived never-never land is realised in his phantasmagorical tableau The contrivance of a vintage Wonderland (A magniﬁcent ﬂight of curious fancy for science buffs…a china ark of seductive whimsy…a divinely ordered special attraction…upheld in multifariousness) 2007, which is the kind of diorama that should have been on display in the social history museums of the past. Mellor’s magical installation conjures up ﬂights of fancy that might have been the imaginations of those terriﬁed and ignorant initial ‘boat people’.
Mellor’s creatures are manufactured from an amalgam of the man-made and the natural: real macropod paws and ears, and smaller marsupial possum paws and ears adorn life-size ﬁbreglass models encrusted with a mosaic of shattered blue and white willow pattern Spode crockery – with one red and white willow pattern oddity.2 A motley ﬂock of stuffed native birds – a giant emu, an owl, brilliantly coloured parrots, including hybrids – and a tree cloaked in mosaic rather than bark conjure metaphors of the hybridity that most of contemporary Indigenous Australians experience everyday.
1. AG Bolam, The trans-Australian wonderland, Melbourne: The McCubbin-James Press, 1927.
2. Spode is an English manufacturer of pottery and porcelain, based in Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom, c. 1770.