Donna McRae completed the postgraduate filmmaking course at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2003, holds an MFA from Monash University, and completed a PhD entitled Projecting Phantasy: The Spectre in Cinema at Monash University in 2012. Her first feature film, Johnny Ghost (2012), won seven local and international film festival awards. McRae is currently developing several other documentary and horror feature film projects. She lectures in film and TV at Deakin University, Melbourne.
After receiving a New Work grant from the Australia Council in 2007, McRae presented three-channel video installations in Melbourne galleries and overseas. She has also collaborated with visual artist Michael Vale since 2002, principally on the Screen Australia and Film Victoria-supported film project Le Chien qui Fume. Their collaborations include an award-winning short film (The Long Walk, 2006) and installation art (The Innocents, Westspace, Melbourne, 2011).
2015. HD video, edition of 10 and 2AP. Length?
In the fever of the 1850s gold rush, when the Victorian population tripled and men dropped everything to seek their fortunes, many women were deserted to fend for themselves, without welfare, struggling to make ends meet within English traditions and conventions.
California, a multi-channel video installation, reimagines a hallucinatory dancehall in 1850s Melbourne populated entirely by female dancers and musicians. The exhausted women partner up, supporting themselves in what seems to be a never-ending dance.
The aim is to deliver a feeling of the dancers’ entrapment, and a glimpse into the cycle of a brutal world that offered little respite from hardship and desperation. This piece furthers the artist’s investigations into women of 19th century Victoria, which began with Lamb of God (2009), showing the life and death of Emma Williams, who was hanged in the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1895.