ARTHUR WICKS

selected biography

Awards:  

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 Restany
at the Pompidou Centre, Paris
1983-84; VACB residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin
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 TRILOGY"
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”.

Since 1966, have held over 50 solo exhibitions and actions, and participated in 80 group shows.

1937
Born Sydney
1958 B.Sc & Dip Ed (Sydney University)
1964   Bachelor of Arts, Australian National University
1966 First solo exhibition - Nundah Galleries, Canberra
1967 Awarded French Government scholarship to study printmaking at Hayter's studio 17, Paris
     

1983

 

Solo exhibition of prints and photos at Donguy Galleries, Paris           

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, Berlin
           
Alternativa
3,  Almada,  Portugal
           
"Im Theatre"  24 hours of performance in the Hebbel Theatre, Berlin
           
Print included in the Frechen International Graphic Exhibition

1984

"Interview" performance at the Technical University, Berlin

"Berliner Notizen" booklet published with the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin

Solo exhibition at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin

1985

The "Survival Boat" shown at Sculpture 85,  Melbourne

A
nzart 85, Auckland           

Perspecta
85, Sydney

 

1986

 

Inaugural Show, Warrnambool City Gallery           

Solo show, "Relics from Semi-Private Performances"  Performance Space, Sydney

1987

"Site 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 programme "Billboard"

Performance, "Escape of the Solstice Voyeur"  National Performance Event, Adelaide

1988

"Happy New Year Australia", Sydney Square (with friends) on 1st January

"Project Show - Transformer", Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery and "Escape of the Solstice Voyeur", Riverina Playhouse

 

1989

"The Quarry:  An Archaeology" Site-Specific show, Mt Gambier

"Transformer:  Fields of Change" travelling exhibition, Regional Gallery venues: Albury, Canberra, Penrith, Mildura, Benalla           

Solo show, Gallerie Dusseldorf, Perth

1990

Sydney Biennale

Australian Sculpture Triennial, Melbourne, Sculpture in City Spaces
         

"Transformer:  Fields of Change" travelling exhibition, Regional Gallery venues: Lismore, Noosa, Surfers Paradise, Tamworth, Dubbo

           
"Proposals" at the Perc Tucker Regional Art Gallery, Townsville
           
"The Battlefield", in Assembly Hall, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra
this work was later screened on the national ABC TV programme "Review"
           
"Peace Car through Europe", special action in Hoorn, Holland; Brandenburger Tor -Reichstag; Kino Babylon,
    Berlin
           
Exhibition "Continental Stretch" at DC Art, Sydney


1991

"Machina : Persona"  Art Gallery of NSW

"Armoured Car" at the Australian National Gallery, Canberra

Exhibition at Ben Grady Gallery, Canberra


 

1992

"Last Work"  Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery

"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

 

 

1993 1st Annual International Exhibition of Miniature Art, Stockholm, Sweden
(received honourable mention)

 

1994

 

"Working 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.

1995

Working with Tamworth Regional Art 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”

 

1996

 

 

Participant in Brisbane Festival (“Moments of Inertia: Friction”)

Working on sculptural environments which relate objects with living forms (eg “Primal Installation for the 21st Century”)

Completion of large metal & fibreglass public tripodal sculpture “Event on the River Bank Towards the End of   the 20th Century

 

1997

“A Question of Identity” Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery

Solo show at Michael Nagy Fine Art, Sydney

International Print Triennial Cracow ’97

1998

 

Triennial 100 Cities, Nuremberg, Rio de Janiero, Slupsk, Krosno, Skarzysko-Kamienna

Commissioned to produce 2 small water pieces as part of the main St upgrade, Wagga Wagg

Brisbane Festival (Sept)  Degrees of Freedom: Escape Velocity”

 

1999


Commissioned by WWCC with Chris Helyar to construct large-scale boulder sculpture
           

German International Print Triennial, Frechen

2000

 

 

International Print Triennial Cracow 2000
2001
Continuing work on the boulder project
2002

Group show “Three Wild Men” at Sir Herman Black Gallery, Sydney University UnionSolo show at Michael Nagy Fine Art

Participation in “The Big River Show” Wagga Wagga Regional Art Gallery

Installation of working humanoid (“Artist Trapped in Artaud’s Cage ”) at Canberra Museum & Art Gallery

2003

Selected as a finalist, to exhibit  2 Antipodeans Marking out their Territory” for the Helen Lempriere sculpture prize, Werribee Park, Melbourne;  highly commended

Selected to exhibit “the Boatman’s Unscheduled Crossing” at NGA sculpture and prize exhibition

Artist in Residence TAFE Central, Perth

 

 
2004

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 & Western Australia

 
2005

“Beacon” installation included in “Fireworks”, a touring exhibition curated by Gavin Wilson.

Cha
rles Nodrum Gallery, Richmond Melbourne

         
2006

Screening of videos for Winter Solstice at AGNSW           

“Notes from the Solstice Voyeur” printed works begin touring north NSW & Queensland.

 

2007
Survey of Australian Prints, National Gallery of Australia

“the Artist Trapped in Artaud’s Cage”, Sydney University with Australia Council funding.
         
   

Selected Bibliographic Information

1.     "Berliner Notizen", Arthur Wicks and the Künstlerhaus Bethanien,  Feb. 1984,

2.     "At the edge of Time", Thomas Wulffen, (art critic for Flash Art, Milan), Berlin, January, 1991 (translated from the German),

3.     "MAN  +  MACHINE = ART", Vivienne Skinner, pub. in The Gazette, University of Sydney, August 1992,

4.     Reference to work and photograph of machine in book "Seeing Australia: Views of Artists and Artwriters" by                Graeme Sullivan (Harcourt Brace) 1993,

5.      Prosthetics”, Ceallaigh Norman, Periphery, Issue No. 32 Spring 1997,

6.     “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, free Europe.

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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PROSTHETICS: 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 human’s 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 trajectivity …. 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.

CEALLAIGH NORMAN

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

I 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 and day.

David Hansen
Hobart
May 2002


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