Colonial Grotesque: Visual Memory in Australia

This project considers the visualisation of settler colonial Australian relationships to place through grotesque aesthetics of ruin, decline and decay.

Thea Costantino, Site, 2017, Archival pigment print, 45 x 48.4cm cropped

In investigating the visualisation of settler colonial memory of place, Theo Costantino has created a body of visual artwork exploring the uncanny resurfacing and repetition of colonial power within everyday places and spaces in Australia. This work appeared in Trespasses, a group exhibition with Anna Nazzari and Rebecca Dagnall showing at Turner Galleries, Perth, WA, 10 November to 9 December 2017; and Geraldton Regional Art Gallery, WA, 19 January to 2 March 2018.

They have recently written about ways in which settler colonial nostalgia is served by aesthetics of ruin and narratives of suffering, which support the fantasy of earning unmediated and untroubled sovereignty of a supposedly empty land. The construction of ruins and ghost towns as sites of tourism may contribute to the erasure of histories beyond the settler narrative frame, playing into the fantasy of terra nullius. However, by considering ways that these sites frustrate a restorative nostalgic gaze, they suggest ways that they might be reframed as counter-narratives as part of the process of decolonising Australian cultural memory.


Conference paper: ‘Home Sickness: Settler Relationships to Australian Place’, Society for the History of Emotions Conference ‘Emotions of Cultures/Cultures of Emotions: Comparative Perspectives’, The University of Western Australia, 11–13 December 2017.

More information about Theo’s creative work and writing can be found via

Image: Theo Costantino, Site, 2017, Archival pigment print, 45 x 48.4cm. Used with permission