In Bill Henson’s 1985, images of a suburban Australia and a deserted Egypt are juxtaposed and edited in a way to avoid any linear narrative or social commentary on the two countries. Taken exclusively during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk, the common thread of darkness functions to combine the two locations into an anonymous sensual dreamscape. The golden pyramids, desert heat and hieroglyphics etchings that are so crucial to the idea of ‘Egypt’ momentarily disrupt the monotony of the endless humid suburbia of Melbourne. Henson scatters the few quiet visual details of Egypt throughout 1985 to guide the reader through the darkness, leading them to an anachronistic imaginary past.
Henson’s twilight ‘sleepwalk’ amongst fleshy bodies and dense urban structures offers the reader the headiness of insomnia. Deep shadows engulf the passing faces and distant industrial landscape, with the meagre light highlighting the clammy flesh of the wandering figures and the swirling thick clouds of the city’s polluted air. The destination is unclear, the final image of an ancient Egyptian monolithic gateway is symbolically ambiguous on whether the journey is beginning or ending.
Images: Bill Henson
1985 published by Stanley/Barker