Extraterrestrial Highway

31 March – 23 April 2011

Gallerysmith, Melbourne

Extraterrestrial Highway, in Nevada, is the semi-official title of an ordinary strip of desert highway that runs north east of Las Vegas and ends at the ghost town of Warm Springs. It is well known in UFO circles because of the very high number of strange sightings seen along its route. These events are often alleged to be connected to the top secret military research establishment at Groom Lake, otherwise known as ‘Area 51’.

Part way along the highway a dirt tracks heads off west into the hills that screen the secret testing facility from the main road. In another part of this huge restricted area the US government let off 900 plus nuclear bombs during the cold war era.

13,000 kilometers away, the Stuart Highway runs 315 km past the British nuclear test sites at Maralinga, then sweeps on south past the Woomera Prohibited Area and the old rocket launch facilities at Lake Hart. Like Groom lake, it is mostly desert landscape isolated from large populations and with access prohibited to ordinary citizens. Travelling along these highways the old signage marks the borders between the different types of human exploitation of the landscape. Places we are not allowed to go or see, typographic markers to 60 years of secret missile, aeronautical and space research.

Recreating these signs unhinges them from their purely practical function and gives them a new totemic meaning. This meaning wobbles between the written content on the signs with all its historical associations, the supposed dangers of the ‘badlands’, and their new function as paintings about these landscapes. Although now removed from their origins, they chart the history of the areas they served and the aspirations and fears of the people that erected them. They are marked, scratched and stained by their time supposedly spent upon it.

Adam Norton

Future Site of the New Mexico Space Port

synthetic polymer paint on board, posts, bolts
150 × 217 cm

Tool Board
synthetic polymer paint on board
44 × 66 cm

300 Mile Peg
synthetic polymer paint on board, post, bolts
135 × 29 cm

Petrol Driven Vehicles

46 × 46 cm

Warning Explosives
synthetic polymer paint on board
44 × 44 cm

Fallout Shelter
synthetic polymer paint on board
46 × 33 cm

109 East Place
synthetic polymer paint on board
40 × 65 cm

Alien Warning
synthetic polymer paint on board
60 × 70 cm

Library of Truth and Fiction
2008 - 2010
synthetic polymer on board, found objects
Dimensions variable

No Lone Zone
stencil on wall
33 × 65 cm

Prohibited Area
synthetic polymer paint on board, wooden poles, bolts
240 × 122 × 7 cm

synthetic polymer paint on board
162 × 24 cm

Warning Military Installation
synthetic polymer paint on board, poles, bolts
237 × 155 × 4 cm