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On Land: a series exploring the leftfield of the Australian landscape

Heath Killen, the designer behind online publication The Territories, has released a series of limited-edition zines about the Antipodean landscape phenomena.

Entitled On Land, the series covers years of research on the leftfield of the Australian landscape. It’s available in five limited-edition, A5, 20pp, Risograph-printed zines.

The titles in the series are: At the Dawn of Nimbin’s New Age, This is UFO Country, The Lost Coastal Bohemia of Crater Cove, In the Land of the Giants, and Bush Royalty: Australian Micronations.

We talked to Heath to know more.

Where did your interest in what you call Antipodean landscape phenomena stem from?

“I think it has been there for a very long time. It’s in my blood. My father’s side of the family are all farmers and my mother was a history teacher so I think those two sides have just coalesced in me. I’ve always been fascinated by Australian geology too, as well as the colours and textures of the landscape, which are so varied and unlike anywhere else in the world.

“In more recent years, discovering the work of Geoff Manaugh from BLDGBLOG, David Plotz from Atlas Obscura, and others have also made me think more about the relationship between culture and landscape. That’s what On Land, and more broadly, The Territories, is really about.”

Who are you aiming this series at: what’s your target audience?

“I just find this subject matter interesting, and I feel like I can’t be the only one who does.

“For example, the first edition in On Land is about the history of Nimbin – regardless of what you think about the place, the story of its formation is undoubtedly fascinating. The Aboriginal significance of the region runs deep, but the way that the town as we know it today came about is really unusual.

“Basically, European settlers had turned it into farmland, mostly dairy, but over the years it had become depressed and by the early ‘70s it was basically dead. A group of hippies from the city decided to host an arts and music festival there, and many who came to that festival simply never left.

“They purchased shops and property cheaply and built a functioning community from scratch, based on their ideals. Decades later that town still going, with many of those founders still there and visitors coming from all over the world just to take a look.

“On Land is for the general curious person who finds a story like that interesting. It’s probably pretty niche, but that’s part of the reason why it’s a limited run. It’s a short read too!”

Tell us about the design process and rationale behind each issue.

“When I was a kid, I used to love those monthly, encyclopedic mini-magazines you’d find at the newsagent. Each issue would be about a different subject connected to a broader theme, and the first one would come with a binder to house your collection.

“I haven’t done anything quite so elaborate here but that was in the back of my mind when thinking about On Land – the idea of having a connected, collectible, limited series. On the surface, landscape and history may seem like dry subject matter to many people but I think that’s largely because it’s often presented in such a dry way – the actual stories are anything but.

“I’ve tried to make these zines feel new and alive and different to the way this sort of content is usually packaged. They’re also Risograph printed on recycled paper, a more lo-fi but I think beautiful way to do it: the results are timeless, precious, and imperfect – very human.”

What’s next?

“I have a plan for the next five editions of On Land, but that will depend on the response from this first lot. I also have plans for a range of different releases from The Territories that will come in all shapes and sizes.

“The next one is off to print in a few weeks, ready for release in early 2017. It’s called The Elemental Coast and is completely different to On Land. The content is by my friends Hannah Lawless and Micheal Hanley, and it’s a survey of the New Zealand coastline that combines journal entries, recipes from foraged food, photography, and illustration.”

You can get yourself Heath Killen’s limited-edition zines here.

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