1976; Study Leave from R.C.A.E. to work
and exhibit in New York
1980; special project grant from the Australia
Council to do collaborative work curated by Pierre
at the Pompidou
1983-84; VACB residency at Künstlerhaus
1990; Australia Council Fellowship
to make a series of works during 1990,
1992; S.S.P. Leave from CSU-R to execute the work "the
1992; NSW Ministry for the arts grant to assist
defraying the costs of "the TRILOGY"
1995; New Media grant to transfer videotapes
to digital format
1996; ANAT & New Media grant to assist development
of digital work
2001-02; Australia Council Fellowship (New Media)
to extend existing practice into the area of animated humanoids.
2004; Australia Council Grant (VACB)
to develop new work with interactive installations.
2006; Australia Council Grant (New Media)
to install the interactive “Artist Trapped in Artaud’s Cage”.
1966, have held over 50 solo exhibitions and actions, and participated
in 80 group shows.
||B.Sc & Dip Ed (Sydney University)
||Bachelor of Arts, Australian
||First solo exhibition - Nundah Galleries,
French Government scholarship to study printmaking at Hayter's
studio 17, Paris
Solo exhibition of prints and photos at Donguy
VAB grant & DAAD assistance to work at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin
Performed work for Hamburg Performance Woche
as part of the Art Week, Hamburg
Performed work for the DAAD Berlin Performance Weekend, Künstlerhaus,
"Im Theatre" 24 hours of performance in the Hebbel
Print included in the Frechen International Graphic
"Interview" performance at the Technical University,
booklet published with the Künstlerhaus Bethanien,
Solo exhibition at the Künstlerhaus
"Survival Boat" shown at Sculpture 85, Melbourne
nzart 85, Auckland
Perspecta 85, Sydney
Inaugural Show, Warrnambool City Gallery
Solo show, "Relics from Semi-Private Performances" Performance Space,
Specific" show Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Canberra
Solo show, "Machines and Like-Objects" Performance Space, Sydney
ARX 87, Perth
Work shown in a major segment of the national ABC TV
Performance, "Escape of the Solstice Voyeur" National Performance Event, Adelaide
"Happy New Year Australia",
(with friends) on 1st January
"Project Show - Transformer", Wagga Wagga
Gallery and "Escape
of the Solstice Voyeur", Riverina Playhouse
Quarry: An Archaeology" Site-Specific
show, Mt Gambier
Fields of Change" travelling exhibition, Regional Gallery venues:
Solo show, Gallerie Dusseldorf, Perth
Australian Sculpture Triennial, Melbourne,
Sculpture in City Spaces
"Transformer: Fields of Change"
travelling exhibition, Regional Gallery venues: Lismore, Noosa, Surfers Paradise, Tamworth,
"Proposals" at the Perc
"The Battlefield", in Assembly Hall, Australian
Academy, Canberra this work was later
screened on the national ABC TV programme "Review"
"Peace Car through Europe", special action in Hoorn,
Brandenburger Tor -Reichstag; Kino Babylon, Berlin
Exhibition "Continental Stretch" at DC Art, Sydney
Persona" Art Gallery
"Armoured Car" at the Australian National Gallery,
Exhibition at Ben Grady Gallery, Canberra
Work" Wagga Wagga City
"A Chatter of Machines" Perc
Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsvill
Exhibit with architect Sam Marshall "Future
City" at Bond Warehouse,
Sydney ; group exhibition of collaborative works - architects/artists
"The TRILOGY" satellite event to the 9th Sydney Biennale, at
The Performance Space, Sydney
Exhibition of 2D works at Michael Nagy Fine Art, Sydney
||1st Annual International
Exhibition of Miniature Art, Stockholm, Sweden
(received honourable mention)
with the Wall", Ivan Dougherty Gallery; University
of NSW, College of Fine Arts
"25 Years of Performance Art in Australia", Ivan Dougherty Gallery.
Performed "Free Fall: Slow Motion"
Group show, "The Beach" MoMA at
Heide Parke, Melbourne.
Working with Tamworth
Gallery for Country
Music Festival float
Participant in Canberra
National Sculpture Forum
Performances at NGA at the time of the CNSF (April) “Spoken under Duress”
Participant in Brisbane
Festival (“Moments of Inertia: Friction”)
Working on sculptural environments
which relate objects with living forms (eg “Primal
Installation for the 21st
Completion of large metal &
fibreglass public tripodal sculpture “Event on
the River Bank Towards the End of
the 20th Century
of Identity” Wagga Wagga
Solo show at Michael
Nagy Fine Art, Sydney
Triennial Cracow ’97
100 Cities, Nuremberg, Rio de Janiero,
Slupsk, Krosno, Skarzysko-Kamienna
Commissioned to produce
2 small water pieces as part of the main St upgrade,
Festival (Sept) “Degrees
of Freedom: Escape Velocity”
Commissioned by WWCC with Chris Helyar to construct
large-scale boulder sculpture
German International Print Triennial, Frechen
Print Triennial Cracow 2000
on the boulder project
Selected as a finalist, to exhibit “2 Antipodeans Marking out their Territory”
for the Helen Lempriere sculpture prize, Werribee
Park, Melbourne; highly
Selected to exhibit “the Boatman’s
Unscheduled Crossing” at NGA sculpture and prize exhibition
in Residence TAFE Central, Perth
Selected as finalist, to exhibit “Surface Tension” for
the Helen Lempriere sculpture prize, Werribee, Melbourne;
Sculpture “Free Fall: Slow Motion”
installed in Werribee Sculpture Walk collection.
Selected as finalist University of Western Sydney 1st
acquisitive sculpture award & exhibition.
“Notes from the Solstice Voyeur” printed works begin touring Victoria &
“Beacon” installation included in “Fireworks”, a touring exhibition curated
by Gavin Wilson.
rles Nodrum Gallery, Richmond Melbourne
of videos for Winter Solstice at AGNSW
“Notes from the Solstice Voyeur” printed works begin touring north NSW
|Survey of Australian Prints, National Gallery
“the Artist Trapped in Artaud’s Cage”, Sydney
University with Australia
Selected Bibliographic Information
"Berliner Notizen", Arthur Wicks and the Künstlerhaus
Bethanien, Feb. 1984,
the edge of Time", Thomas Wulffen, (art critic for Flash Art, Milan), Berlin,
January, 1991 (translated from the German),
"MAN + MACHINE
= ART", Vivienne Skinner, pub. in The Gazette, University of Sydney, August 1992,
Reference to work and photograph
of machine in book "Seeing Australia: Views of Artists and Artwriters" by Graeme Sullivan (Harcourt Brace) 1993,
Periphery, Issue No. 32 Spring 1997,
“Deus ex Machina”, David Hansen, Issue No. 150,
Art Monthly 2002.
|| Major collections:
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
is the public custodian of all my prints (1964-2005).
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AT THE EDGE OF TIME
The "Peace Car" of Arthur Wicks in Berlin.
The City was, and is, the centre of German history:
Berlin The Place where the event occurred, was the nucleus of this
history. On the 18th October, nearly a year after the Wall fell down, the
Peace Car of Arthur Wicks rolled from Potsdamer Platz to the Brandenburger
Tor. At that point of time Potsdamer Platz was still devastated land, overtaken
by the historic events of the previous months. But still it seemed to belong
to a different time Of this period only relics now exist: a hill under
which supposedly lies the Fuhrerbunker of Adolf Hitler: roads which
are reminders that Berlin was the liveliest place in Europe in the twenties.
In this specific location moves a contraption which in its own way is out
of time. But it is imprinted with this history.
Arthur Wicks's Peace Car is the third in a
series of machines in which the artist reflects on mechanisation. He sees
the machine as a moment of expression of this century and in this sense
he is connected with the Futurist Movement at the beginning of this century.
The machine is nowadays only a reminder of its development, for today,
instead of material content, we favour streams of information. The same
holds true for the armoured car of Arthur Wicks. It spans different times
because it copies the original form of a mechanical apparatus and at the
same time confronts us with the possible loss of all machines.
Mechanisation is perceived only as an irony. The functions
are maintained solely by fake. Symbols, like a sort of rocket, are moving
around without creating any real threat. The armoury is a dummy. The motion
always comes to a stop because the machine, the car, seems to be programmed
to become non-functioning. The artist moves the machine, but one can guess
the exhausting effort needed to do that. He is at the one time the mover
and the moved. The interdependence between man and machine cannot be more
clearly stated. In the background there are glimpses of Charlie Chaplin
in "Modern Times", but the Peace Car is like the swan
song, the Abgesang. There is, however, an irony in this "sculpture"
of Arthur Wicks.
Berlin is the right place for this Abgesang.
The present is filled with the past and pregnant with the future. The city
was the ending point of travel for the Peace Car through Europe, beginning
in Holland and ending in Hamburg via Berlin. Every city is connected to
its own special period of time. For example, Hamburg was a dominant harbour
in the time of the Hanse. Now it seems that Berlin is the centre of a new,
The artist doesn't give an answer, but the question
itself is meaningful, because it is stated in a non-verbal form. Maybe
it is the distance of this Australian, Arthur Wicks, from the real events,
that make it possible for him to react in such an impressive way to the
historic upheaval in Berlin and Europe.
Thomas Wulffen Berlin, January, 1991
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The castration complex raised to an art form
BIOCHEMICAL WARFARE: Nerve Gases.
The patient and long awaited revenge of the inorganic world against the
organic." - J.G. Ballard.
Two Division, Boggo Road, the old Brisbane Gaol, Queensland.
Now a site for social, tourist and art voyeurism. A complicated space -
haunted as it is with the pain inherent in a history of incarceration and
corruption. Arthur Wicks navigates the historic tensions and legacy of
misery in one of his infernal machines. In this performance entitled MOMENTS OF INERTIA: FRICTION
Wicks puts blood into the machine in an era of two way prosthesis, the
machine as prosthetic to the human, the human as prosthetic to the machine.
Wicks' work operates within the blurred boundaries of this binary, the
arena where self and other collide, pulling and tearing at each other,
thwarted attempts at a transcendence while being incarcerated in the functioning
and dysfunction of the humans relationship to the machine, the machine's
relationship to the human.
The internal/external conflict is played out as the
vehicle spits stasis and motion, never fluid and as inefficient to speed
as the goal is to reform. here the Flintsonian meets the draconian. The
vehicle creaks and groans, tenuous In its function, precarious in its solidity.
A radio-microphone amplifies its straining, crunching movement and the
sounds resonate through gaol cells into molecular cells, bouncing against
walls and through bodies. The wheels are removed and the machine metamorphoses
into a somnambulistic chair. Wicks autistically rocks in the corner. Finally
the internal provides the only line of flight.
There is movement but the notion of movement
is exposed as problematic of perception. Deleuze and Guattari argue that
"movement......is by nature imperceptible. Perception can grasp movement
only as the displacement of a moving body or the development of a form.
Movements, becomings in other words, pure relations of speed and slowness,
pure affects, are below and above the threshold of perception". The
imperceptible becomes perceived through the process of "jumping from
one plane to the other or from the relative thresholds to the absolute
which co-exists with them." 2
Wicks' facial features are concealed and distorted
by a mask of latex, anonymous yet familiar, the subject is transformed
into the generic. His suited and caged body labours to power the vehicle
in a fraught merging of body and machine. Wicks scrutinises the everyday
by creating an imaginary space that is real, counteracting alienation through
the creation of that alienating space.
My foot descends upon the accelerator, within seconds,
fumes of adrenaline hit the back of my throat. A surge of heat starts from
the base of my spine Igniting my cerebral cortex, charging every nerve.
vein and artery on the way through. A moment of bliss as I fuse with my
machine. Past, present and future collapsing into one seductive space.
Unrelentingly, the rider of the infernal machine searches
out lines of flight in a pre-defined territory. infinite tangents within
this space of confinement. Neither subjective or objective but, as Virilio
might say, 'trajective'. Wicks performs that dilemma identified by Virilio
who states, "despite various recent studies and debates concerning
internment, and the carceral deprivations affecting this or that society
denied its freedom of movement
..it seems we are still incapable of
grasping seriously the question of trajectory except in mechanical, ballistic
or astronomical terms. Objectivity and subjectivity, certainty; but never
. It seems there is no place between the objective and
the subjective for the trajective." 3
"A QUESTION OF IDENTITY". Prosthesis exists
to forge connection with the other. It builds and is built upon an economy
of war: public private, internal / external, molecular/ psychic. "STILL
LIFE WITH SUBCONSCIOUS INTRUSION". The periods of stasis are as close
as It gets to the notion of peace. Mechanical prosthesis. Technological
prosthesis. Pharmacological prosthesis.
Circuit boards and road systems, two of the most sophisticated
and logical systems we have to deal with on a daily basis. The moment of
the crash, the accident, a glitch in the system. A smashing together of
the rational and the irrational, the conscious and the subconscious.
Peripheral shadows come into central vision. Flesh.
Focusing. Dragging frame by frame along pixellations of raw bitumen glistening
in the headlight beam of the cool, sharp, night. 1 watch my bodily fluids
dripping down the windscreen, gleaming against the beads of rain. 1 watch
myself watching. In the gleeful space of hallucinatory nightmare, the internal
merges with the external, a semblance of a mythical totality. Flesh enters
the machine. Blood turns to oil.
Repetition can be defined not only through perception,
but through result. A repetition that succeeds perfectly "may be fatal
because the space of distance between model and copy has been eliminated,
collapsing both terms into one entity and abolishing the singularity of
each separate term." 4 The organism/the machine is condemned to perform
the same gestures within the same continuum of time and space. This notion
of stasis is exemplified by the Buddhist notion of reincarnation - if you
fuck up the first time, you'll have to come back and do it again.
The rider and the machine have morphed, transcending
a space that never existed yet is always there. The binary of the mechanical
and the organic has been eliminated. The essence of the machine and the
essence of the rider is distilled through the production of autonomous
busts. The busts defy the potential fatality of the repetition through
their emerging with distinct human affects, defiance, melancholy, dejection,
arrogance.....festering with the potential for human catharsis.
The Rider and the machine have exchanged blood.
"AUTOMOBILE. All the millions
of cars on this planet are stationary, and their apparent motion constitutes
mankind's greatest collective dream."
J.G. Ballard 5.
1. J.G. Ballard, Project for a
Glossary of the Twentieth Century, in Incorporations, Jonathon
Crary and Sanford Kwinter (eds) Zone, New York, 1992
2. Gillles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, One
Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, University of Minnesota
Press, Minnesota, 1987
3. Paul Virilio, Perspectives of Real
Time, in Christos M. Joachimides and Norman Rosenthal (eds), Metropolis,
Rizzoli. New York 1991,
4. Elisabeth Bronfen, Death and Representation,
Sarah Webster Goodwin and Elisabeth Bronfen (eds), John Hopkins University,
Press, Baltimore. 1993
5. J.G. Ballard, Project for a Glossary
of the Twentieth Century, in Incorporations Jonathon Crary and
Sanford Kwinter (eds), Zone, New York, 1992
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||DEUS EX MACHINA
am writing this before the event. It may yet not happen. It was meant to happen
more than twenty years ago. In a publicity flyer for that first attempt in
1981, Arthur Wicks described the project succinctly: "I will be living
on the roof of the Art Gallery of New South Wales between noon 20 June and
noon 21 June to witness and record the winter solstice, using landmarks in
the Sydney area." The project never got off the ground (or onto the roof);
it was cancelled by Gallery authorities. The artist will say only (and with
a laugh) that it "ran foul of protocol at the time".
But I have money on a successful outcome this time around. It is all a matter
of probability, of reference to artistic actuarial tables. Wicks began his
career as a scientist immersed in statistics, and his works always leave a
courtesy space for the unexpected deviation, the random fluctuation, the flap
of the butterfly's wing in the Amazonian rainforest. Fortuna repays the compliment;
as often as not, chance operates in the artist's favour.
In 1988, in an abandoned limestone quarry in Mt Gambier, he built two chimneys,
the largest a two and a half metre pyramid above an old lime kiln. These were
stuffed with dry leaves and branches from the surrounding scrub, and were
to be ignited as part of a performance in which the artist, dressed in a suit
and with his face immobilised by a mud mask, "recited" a paranoid-prophetic-luddite
Armageddon monologue, through a cassette player in his pocket and a small
speaker in his lapel. As it happened, the performance was scheduled at the
end of a dry summer, on the final day of a period of fire bans. Until the
last minute it seemed possible that the district council would deny permission;
in the event the performance had to be attended by two local fire units.
Not only was permission finally granted, but in addition to the pyrodrama
of Wicks' blazing Volcanoes and other primal vents and the eco-psychodrama
of his rant, we also got the theatre spots of the fire trucks' headlights,
the yellow strobe of the flashing lights on their roofs and the props and
extras of throbbing engines, large machines and men in hard hats and orange
overalls. Behind the pre-recorded tinny demagoguery issuing from the artist's
suit, fire service radios crackled. All of these additional special effects
were unplanned, but perfectly in harmony with the performance's mood and metaphors.
Arthur Wicks is lucky.
This is why he can laugh at supposed failure. In its very non-occurrence,
that first attempt to get on top of the Art Gallery of New South Wales served
only to consolidate and enrich his persona as the "Solstice Voyeur”,
a kind of slipshod slapstick shaman. Over the past two decades Wicks has adopted
this role on numerous occasions, perhaps most notably in 1983 in a performance
for the summer solstice on the roof of the Hamburg Kunstverein, and another,
for the winter solstice following, at the Berlin Kunstlerhaus. Such “occupations”
(the language of warfare is relevant; Wicks' artistic space-takings have often
borrowed tactics and imagery from the military-industrial complex) involved
a busy, besuited artist scuttling about, taking chaotic, fractional, fractal
readings of time and place. From the collected experience, data and images
Wicks then constructs a panoramic vision of the host city, but with the horizon
as a circle. Through this mandala-lens, Wicks describes shortest and longest
days, the extremities of the earth's orbit, the turning points of the world.
Wicks once explained his 1992 performance Trilogy (Performance Space, Sydney,
December 1992) as both "a summation of much of my previous work"
and as "a little bit like an unholy marriage between a medieval morality
play and Italian Futurist theatre” .
There is certainly a medieval element to the Solstice Voyeur project. It
is a temptation of Christ scenario, as described in Matthew's gospel (4, 5):
"then the Devil took him to the Holy City, and set him on the pinnacle
of the temple and said to him, 'if you are the Son of God, throw yourself
down; for it is written, 'he will give his angels charge of you', and 'On
their hands they will bear you up’…" But Wicks is neither
Saviour nor Devil, more like one of the Desert Fathers, a sunstruck anchorite
in a Syrian clifftop hermitage, muttering and cackling to himself as he goes
about his daily ritual devotions, checking his altar, his cross, his global
positioning satellite, his weather monitors, his computer, his telephone,
his food supply, his waste bucket.
During the Middle Ages, European cartographers imaged the known world, from
Ireland to India, from the Arctic to the African Desert, as a circle, with
the Holy Land at the centre. The way Wicks maps the view from the roof onto
a globe recalls these Ptolemaic mappae mundi. The sphere of the city recalls
the concentric spheres of Aristotelian cosmology, the crystal balls studded
with sun, moon, planets and stars. Moreover, Wicks's scopic fish bowl is imaged
in two dimensions, halo and communion wafer, the perfect form of plane geometry,
the circle, the unity and the zero and the eternity of scholastic sacred mathematics,
the eye of god.
Like Piero Manzoni's sculpture Le Socle du Monde (Pedestal for the World),
it implies and implicates the whole of the world, the planet, by reference
to a single point. Like On Kawara's date paintings, it implies and implicates
the whole of history, all time, by reference to a particular day. Like Hans
Haacke's exposures of the nexi of New York slum landlords and the Guggenheim
Museum, or of Margaret Thatcher, the Saatchi brothers and the Tate Gallery,
it implies and implicates the entirety of culture (and its politics) by reference
to a particular art institution.
But what of the Italian Futurist theatre? In medieval manuscript illustrations
of the pre-Newtonian cosmos, angels turn the crank handles of the revolving
heavily spheres. In the Futurist universe, angels start the engines of the
Maseratis. Raucous modernism is the cross which counters the medieval nought,
the clock hands which circulate, mark and slice the eternal "O".
Arthur Wicks’s spokes in the wheel, armature of angles, machinery, absurdity,
spectacle of the dehumanised actor, amplified noises and non-linear performance
structures are pure avant-garde cabaret. The solstice photo-mosaic, the edited
image and lasting document of the art action, is assembled according to the
supremely modernist principles of cubism. It has the fractured and collaged
spatiality of art in the age of the photographic image; it shapes the visible
to the frame of the idea. It has the fractured and collaged temporality of
art in the age of cinema; it shapes the action to the frame of the day. The
fact that the images can be actually from photographs taken elsewhere and
at another time – the AMP Tower in Sydney, for example, or the Springer
Verlag Building in Berlin – merely adds another modernist frisson, that
of epistemological uncertainty.
As the Solstice Voyeur, Arthur Wicks shows us the earth not as a blue-green
planet spinning in space, but as a blue-grey cultural artefact fixed on paper
or screen. Same shape, same world, different viewpoint. Different as night
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