There have been recent indications that motor car usage in Melbourne and other cities is peaking, at least in per capita terms, as people seek to get around by more sustainable means. Governments are lagging this imperative, especially in Melbourne, where the city has been permitted to expand towards the horizon with the issue of mobility remaining the plaything of major producer groups.
It is surprising that the motor car and its influence on life has not been the subject of greater artistic expression in recent years.
As reported by Robert Nelson in The Age, the As if exhibition of the works of Ken Whisson at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen, may be something of a corrective:
“The Australian landscape triangulated from the restful density of Umbria (in Whisson’s work), is littered with cars and sheds, and most people witness it from cars, which tear up space in ugly striated patterns. Whisson’s deployment of cars is more than spatial punctuation. They’re deposited in the same spirit of rupture as occurs with car travel itself.”
Propaganda and advertising has dominated the rise and rise of the motor car in Melbourne and Australia. Artistic interpretation has come a distant second. This has typically been associated with producer groups such as car manufacturers, motor insurance companies, roads authorities, petrol companies and toll road operators.
In recent years, however, we have seen the installation of a number of sculptures on the EastLink reservation. More recently, the McClelland Gallery in Langwarrin struck a 25 year multi-million dollar deal to place two sculptures every two years along the soon-to-be-opened Peninsula Link freeway between Carrum Downs and Dromana. At the end of each two year period they are to be replaced with two new sculptures. Upon retirement from the freeway reservation, the sculptures are to be placed on permanent exhibition at the McClelland Gallery sculpture garden.
What a deal. But what is its purpose? It may anaesthetize the memory of the Mornington Peninsula as it once for car travellers as they whizz along the motor way into what threatens to be a rapidly filling car park. In addition, it may be explained as compensation to the McClelland Gallery for the unfortunate fact that it will be located only 100 metres from the road noise of Peninsula Link. The “retired” sculptural pieces can also be seen as a parody of sorts of the used car yards and their contents on the nearby Nepean Highway. There is artifice if not art in propaganda!