This is the page from Look, a magazine published by the Art Gallery of NSW to provide background information and advertise my exhibition "Machina: Persona," January-March 1991. Other critical reviews for the same exhibition by Edwin Lynn (the Australian), Christopher Allen (Sydney Morning Herald), Pat Hoffie, (Art Monthly Australia, March 1991) .

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`Machina: Persona' - four installations by Arthur Wicks
by Wendy Symonds



Survival Boat' in Swanston Street, Melbourne, January 1985.        `Peace Car' crossing Vijzelstraat in Amsterdam, September 1990.

Australian artist Arthur Wicks is the person responsible for a small project exhibition on show in the new Contemporary wing of the Gallery until the end of March. The exhibition consists of four sculpture machines built over the last seven years:

  • The 'SURVIVAL BOAT', a mechanical boat designed to be rowed along train or tram tracks, built in 1984.
  • The 'SOLSTICE OBSERVATORY' helicopter, a self-activated flying machine built in 1987.
  • The 'ARMOURED CAR', a mechanical self-driven vehicle built in 1990 for the projects 'The Battlefield' at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra and 'Peace Car through Europe' completed in October 1990.
  • 'TWO FIGURES', a mechanised installation nearly 3 metres high, trundling on 12 metres of rail - an image from the Antipodean continent built specially for this exhibition.

Wicks is concerned to draw our attention to the role of the machine as we approach the end of the millennium - its apparent strength and scale, but, as he sees it, its increasing irrelevance and uselessness at this point of our history. Each of his machines works in an 'out­of-sync' way - its appearance and function are at odds with one another. He cites the 'Armoured Car' as an example - 'it appears ready to "attack" and "defend" - but against what? It has survived an action that we can only guess at. Its functions have been programmed by forces that are no longer relevant. Only a ritualistic and meaningless pattern of behaviour remains'.
In 1990 Wicks took his 'car' to Europe where he took several weeks to pedal from Amsterdam to Berlin. He had spent 18 months previously living in Berlin and said, 'I'd always had this idea of doing something about the division of East and West. The strong fragmentation in Berlin in 1983 was felt by every­body. Last year, when the Wall was crumbling, metaphorically and physically, the idea returned to me.'
He found the atmosphere in Holland and Germany very different. 'In Holland everyone owns a bicycle. People got the idea I was going to pedal all the way to Berlin. They seemed to understand what I was doing' But when he reached Berlin, 'The intrinsic fun and jollity of Holland seemed to evaporate. There was a feeling that communication was an enormous problem for everyone, and that it was very difficult to get things done.' He managed, however, to trek to parts of Berlin not previously accessible in 1983. At no time on his journey was there opposition to the armoured car and its siren-sounding occupant, who ended their journey at Kino Babylon in East Berlin.

EXHIBITION INFORMATION 'Machina: Persona' is on show at the Gallery until 31 March.

`Mobile Observatory' at the War Memorial, Canberra. Photograph by Monica Luff.

FEATURES to look forward to in next month's LOOK will include:

  • Max Parn Photographs
  • 19th Century Watercolours
  • A Conversation with Tim Storrier



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