b. 1993, Australia
Lives and works in Adelaide, Berlin and Athens
Matthew Thorne is a filmmaker and artist whose work explores the Australian landscape, and its people through a combination of film, photography, and reenactment.
His latest short film Marungka Tjalatjunu (2023) made with Yankunytjatjara man Derik Lynch, premiered at the Berlinale 2023 where it received the Silver Bear Jury Prize. It was also nominated for the Documentary Australia Prize at Sydney Film Festival. Other short and mid-length films include The Sand That Ate The Sea (2020) about the remote Opal mining community of Andamooka SA, and GAIB (2019) a short documentary essay film made with the community of Batu Keras, West Java.
Other works include photography for Nick Cave and the Badseed’s album Ghosteen (2019), and Justin Kurzel’s film True History of The Kelly Gang (2019). He also contributed to Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant (2017) as photographer and additional director, and worked with Glendyn Ivin to create the title sequence for his TV series Gallipoli (2015).
Matthew has published two books, For My Father (2018) and Jingo was born in the slum (2021). His photos also accompany the Spanish language translation of Kenneth Cook's Wake In Fright (2021) by Sajalín editores.
Matthew’s work has been exhibited at GAGPROJECTS Adelaide / Greenaway Art Gallery (2023), the Canberra Museum and Gallery alongside their Sidney Nolan collection (2022), National Portrait Gallery of Australia (2021), National Portrait Gallery London (2020), National Museum of Australia (2020), and the Art Gallery of South Australia (2020), and screened at Berlinale (2023), Sydney Film Festival (2023), and Melbourne International Film Festival (2023).
Matthew was also recipient of the Adelaide Film Festival & Samstag Gallery of Art Commission (2022), Australian Directors Guild Award / Music Video (2021), and nominated for the Olive Cotton Award (2023), National Portrait Prize, Australia (2021), and Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize, UK (2020).
OUT THE BACK OF BEYOND: MARUNGKA TJALATJUNU
& THE SAND THAT ATE THE SEA / JUNE 7 - JULY 2, 2023
This exhibition Out the back of beyond features images from two of my films, which explore remote regions of South Australia & Central Australia across Kaurna, Kuyani, Kokatha, and Arremte Country, as I have tried (and often failed) to make my own connection to this country. Both are works which attempt to see into the grit and the dreaming that seems to me so innate to this Land. Works that have helped begin to form my own relationship to the country I was born into.
In 1954, John Heyer, an 'Australian' documentary filmmaker, made "The Back of Beyond," a film set in South Australia following Tom Kruse, a white Australian, as he traverses his mail route from Kuyani Country (Marree) to Yarluyandi Country (Birdsville).
Buried within this film is a still applicable mapping of the Colonist's relationship to the land. A map that sees with great clarity the extent of our anxiety, our dislocation, and our essential need to connect with the immense spiritual power of this place, which is not our own.
Such works, depicting white settlers crossing, or encountering the land, expose a fragile aspect of 'Australian' identity. They reveal a void made from the undeniable desire for closeness with this occupied land. "The Back of Beyond" acknowledges this void to some extent. Even if it is seen with eyes that do not (cannot) fully comprehend it, there is a desperate attempt to perceive the Land beyond the colonial frontier and see it through the lens of Aboriginal understanding.
In making these works, I have started to understand that European history in this Country is but a fleeting moment in comparison with the cultural wealth that made Aboriginal histories endure.
Disregarding Aboriginal histories and values, new settlers romanticised the land's beauty, while attempting to mould it into known shapes and familiar - paving asphalt parking lots over sacred ground, and carving mail routes through desert dunes. These distinctly colonial acts of refusal exposed the brutality of the conflicted relationships with land; a land given importance only for the permanent attractions and temporary emplacements it can be transformed into. A land valued only when productive and endlessly quantifiable and sub-divisible.
For me filmmaking is a spiritual endeavour imbued with the significance of ritual. It reveals histories and understandings. "The Back of Beyond" uncovered something profound, echoing with the urgent need to confront the past and forge a new understanding of this land called 'Australia'.
The Sand That Ate The Sea (2020) documents the South Australian opal-mining town Andamooka (Kuyani / Kokatha Country), where my uncle is an opal miner. Once the country that surrounds Andamooka was an ocean, and opalised aquatic dinosaur fossils are still found in the dirt there today. It is home to an arid land and deep, old magic. It is a place of endless sweeping salt flats and undulating flat red earth. It is where some of the last Colonial Australian frontiersmen called home, and that Land remains some kind of frontier. A frontier that is also seen a 'stolen land', and a cursed Land, whose wound has a unique way of working on the people living on it today.
Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) (2023) follows Yankunytjatjara-man Derik Lynch's road trip back to Country for spiritual healing as memories from his childhood return. A journey from the oppression he felt in his interaction with white-city-life in 'Adelaide, back home to his remote Anangu Community (Aputula) to perform on sacred Inma ground. Inma is a traditional form of storytelling using the visual, verbal and physical. It is how Anangu Tiukurpa (a story connected to country / dreaming / myth / lore) has been passed down for over 60,000+ years from generation to generation as I have learnt.