The half-built ruin of the Dreamer’s Gate

Mike GristAbandoned Art, Australia, World Ruins 10 Comments

Before you stands a gate. It rears 7 meters high and the fence it bifurcates stretches on for as far as the eye can see. Its walls glisten and seem to move with a life of their own. Across their endless expanses giant figures burrow, retreating behind blankets of spiders webs, emerging again down spiral staircases far off in the distance. Through the gate you can see the Dreamtime. You see the pattern of the land, and the Songlines that have sprung up around it. Gaze into it for long enough and you might even catch a glimpse of the Creation.

The Dreamer’s Gate is an abandoned work of art, built by an Australian called Tony Phantastes over a 6-year period leading up to 1999. For the past ten years it has baffled passersby on the road into the small town of Collector, and been the target of community efforts to have it torn down for structural disintegrity. It is as yet unfinished.

Left, completed, section of the gate.

You may look at that picture above and think- `Wow, cool, looks neat, but is it really that impressive?` That`s because there`s no sense of scale, because there`s nothing to compare it to. It could be only waist high, as far as you know. Soak up a few more shots of its intricacy, then we`ll take a look at its actual size.

The gate. The fence cuts off just to the right of frame, unfinished.

The gate was made by just one man, using techniques adapted from ship building methods. The sculptural ‘skeleton’ is made from 4mm galvanized wire tensioned in place and secured to a half-meter deep concrete footing .The work is then strengthened by the use of galvanised piping as cross members. Finally, it is covered with a ‘skin’ of hessian, plaster, chicken wire, reo, mesh and a final layer of cement render. This technique is one that Tony Phantastes has been perfecting while working on two other sculptures located at private residences in Ainslie and O’Connor, in the ACT.

Australian Heritage

Here you can see the edge.

Beyond the main gate, the secondary smaller gate.

Artist’s Statement‘The landscape behind and the climactic conditions of the area dictated the shape of the sculpture. Working on the piece at all times of the year from early in the morning to late into the night in all types of weather conditions determined how it was formed. Rather than being planned, it wrote itself against the landscape. Dreamer’s Gate simply grew up out of the earth twisting against the wind and the elements in the same way the trees that it frames grew. Because of this the work is totally site specific.’

We can see the landscape in the work in long spiky extrusions, which reflect the craggy boughs of dead trees, and in the large circular holes in the gate that mirror the sun.

The idea of art tied directly to the landscape is a common one in aboriginal culture. I remember on a trip to Australia years back, I went to a didgeridoo performance. The performer explained to us the way didgeridoo music was made, that it was essentially a way to transcribe the surrounding natural landscape world into music. I assumed that meant to take the feeling of the place, the overall sense, and just push that feeling into the music. However it was much more literal than that. The didgeridoo player literally says the words for everything that he`s seeing, in his own language, directly into the pipe. He looks around and describes the world, and that makes the sounds we hear.

Of course, he`ll put his feelings into it too. But the core is the literal map of the world. Hence the song played should be subtly different every time the player plays, even if he`s in the exact same spot as yesterday, because the world changes. This exemplifies the bond between the people and the land that is so powerful in aboriginal culture.

The Dreamer`s Gate taps into this, I feel. It transcribes the land through sculpture.

Giant man, lying, dreaming. Some say the work was driven by Phantastes difficulties as his father died from cancer.

This little guy looks like an angel.

As I mentioned in the introduction, the Gate was plagued with issues of structural unsoundness. Phantastes had to add this ugly framework to the back to ensure stability and prevent the local council from demolishing his work:

And, the scale.

I read online that the artist has several more similar works, but couldn`t find them anywhere. Does anybody know?

Image Sources– Linked by Image.

Text Sources- Australian Heritage, Wikipedia, Atlas Obscura

See more world ruins in the ruins gallery.

See my collection of Japanese ruins (haikyo) in the galleries:

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Comments 10

  1. Wow!

    That is an amazing piece of work.

    In the UK something like that is called a ‘folly’ and generally speaking follies are preserved, simply because they are interesting and represent a snapshot of history.

    Who are these mad fools who want to tear it down. It should be a tourist attraction if it isn’t already. It doesn’t need to be finished…


  2. That is freaky awesome. I hope they don’t demolish it as I could imagine that being quite the tourist attraction if better publicised. Definitely will visit next time I’m back home and if I’m on that side of the continent. First time I’ve every actually wanted to go even _near_ Canberra.

  3. Ahh no why would you want to tear down such a pretty thing? Small country towns are so harsh on anything unusual to them. Not mo mention councils. I don’t see them getting upset of storage of a bunch of rusty old cars and farm equipment or dilapidated barns. If it’s on the mans private land, shag off.

  4. This is awesome! So intriguing. I would hate to think the council was going to tear it down. Put it on the tourist map and make it a place of interest. I’d love to have my pic taken in front of it.

  5. His sculpture at 29 Raymond st Ainslie no longer exists. It was amazing, it evaded the entire single level 3 bedroom brick house that has been a group house since the 80’s. I lived there for a period in the late 90’s early 2000’s while studying at art school. The entire front and back yard we’re entangled in Tony’s cathedral like concrete rendered jungle, arches adorned the pathway leading to the front door, hand blown coloured glass discs embedded amongst the pinnacles which would make sections of the sculpture illuminate and change colour throughout the day as the sun’s angle changed. I fondly recall group house trips to collector with Tony to help render the dreamers gate and enjoy a cold one or two at the local pub. I may have a few old photos of Ainslie house. The backyard was a magical maze, off the wooden verandah down the stairs to your right, an old wooden Gypsy wagon which had been converted into a studio room complete with loft bed. Opposite the wagon, a sculpted fire pit, where we could sit in a little fairy alcove under Tony’s sculpted possum tree. There was a cave in the backyard to house a kiln and another 3 studio rooms, always inhabited by a colourful collection of art school students. The council were forever on Tony’s case about structural safety but it was clearly more about another agenda than safety. I would often arrive home to find Tony swinging off the front of the sculpture, a group of startled looking business men in suits and hard hats with clip boards in hand shaking their heads. The sculpture at Ainslie was very similar to the dreamers gate, familiar faces, cast by Tony integrated throughout, it stood as tall as the house. Fond memories of hearing Tony welding sections of the rio at all hours of the day and night, the occasional piece that penetrated the large glass window above the couch one afternoon, the custom built bending rig for shaping the steel which was to eventually become a table and seating area. The council crap in the end and constant legal battle was the death of Ainslie and Collector. Ainslie house was sold and the new owner demolished the original house and sculptures and replaced it with hideous units.

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