||Camp Pell Lecture is the result of a two-year collaboration between the writer and historian Tony Birch and the artist Tom Nicholson. Originating in their shared interest in the disappeared Camp Pell – a huge military camp then temporary public housing estate which once occupied the expanses of Melbourne’s Royal Park – their collaboration has evolved into a performance-based work.
Camp Pell Lecture is the reading of five lectures simultaneously, continuously and unsynchronised by five people. Parts of the lectures are read aloud, other parts in silence, so that these five lectures alternately produce silence and overlapping texts of varying density and intelligibility. Each lecture takes place in front of a projection, sequences of archival photographs occasionally punctuated by contemporary video footage of Royal Park.
The lectures and the images draw on the extraordinary and divergent histories of the site: the point of departure of Burke and Wills’ expedition in 1860; the 'Native Encampment', an ethnographic display at the early Melbourne Zoo; Camp Pell, one of the largest military camps in the Pacific War, which housed thousands of American and British troops in Nissan huts; and the emergency public housing complex which subsequently occupied these huts, becoming Melbourne’s most infamous postwar 'slum', dismantled just a few months before Melbourne hosted the 1956 Olympics.