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Wagga-domiciled performance artist Arthur Wicks, alias the Solstice Voyeur, is safely back in Wagga following his assault on Holland and Berlin in September and October.

In Arthur Wicks's words, the purpose of the project was "to exhibit and perform with a specially constructed armoured car through Europe," starting in the Hoorn near Amsterdam and completing the project in Berlin a few weeks later.  "As we approach the end of this millenium I become very conscious of the role of the machine - its apparent strength and scale but more importantly, its increasing irrelevance and uselessness at this point in our history.  Each of my machines (and this is the third in a series) work in an ironic and out-of-sync way.  Their appearance and function are at odds with one another".

The armoured car was constructed in April 1990 and used in a performance in the Assembly Hall of the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra on 3 May of that year.  Made of laminated wood, the car is pedal driven.

"The armoured car appears ready to 'attack' and 'defend', but against what?" says Arthur.  "It has survived an action that can only be guessed at.  Its functions have been programmed by forces that are no longer relevant.  Only a ritualistic and meaningless pattern of behaviour remains."

The seeds for the Solstice Voyeur's European assault were sown some seven years ago when Wicks spent 18 months living in Berlin.  "I've always had this idea of doing something about the division of East and West", says Arthur.  "The strong fragmentation in Berlin in 1983 was felt by everybody.  Last year, when the wall was crumbling, metaphorically and then physically, the idea returned to me.  I now had the armoured car and used it for a performance in Canberra in May 1990.  I was fortunate in getting an Australia Council Fellowship.  This was the financial backstop. When Rene Block from Berlin was in Australia I was able to talk with him about what was happening, and to organise some additional financial help.  A drip feed is better than no feed!"

"The irony is, the situation in Berlin was changing rapidly.  The Wall was being removed.  The speed at which things were moving was disorienting everybody.  Nothing prepared me for the chaos of Berlin.  You could have been living there for 40 years and you'd still need a map to get around the entire city.  The other Eastern countries are now finding their feet and their freedom and are coming in to Berlin.  Just about all of these people had formerly been denied consumer goods.  Berlin is suddenly finding itself the fulcrum between East and West.  I decided to take the Solstice Voyeur there."

Wicks left Australia on September 25, spent 2 weeks in Amsterdam, 10 days in Berlin, two days in Hamburg and one day in Frankfurt.

In Holland, the Solstice Voyeur pedalled his armoured car through Hoorn, the old village on the seaboard, and Amsterdam itself.  "In Holland everyone owns a bicycle," says Arthur.  "People got the idea that I was going to pedal all the way to Berlin".  The Dutch appreciated the irony.  Their sense of humour is deeply ironic, and the armoured car really appealed to them.  They seemed to understand what I was doing."

However,in Berlin Arthur found the atmosphere very different.  "The intrinsic fun and jolility of Holland seemed to evaporate there," he says.  "There was a feeling that communication was an enormous problem for everybody, and that it was very difficult to get things done.  I resolved to pursue a trek between certain parts of Berlin which were now accessible, but which weren't in 1983.  So it became a metaphorical or mental trip, even though of course it actually happened.  At each point I had to get permission to get into areas closed off to the public.  Nobody really knew who could give that permission."

"The trek in Berlin began at Potsdamer Platz where a small section of the Wall had been left as a reminder.  Berlin is a city which contains traces of all the events of the 20th century.  There's always a double edged sense of failure and victory.  The trek continued across Potsdamer Strasse, over the old S.S. Bunker where there is an obelisk reminding people that from here the German forces were launched against Poland, and along the one and a half kilometre wasteland stretch - prior to the Wall, the centre of Berlin - across to the Brandenburg Gate.  Then I drove down past the Soviet memorial to the Reichstag, the old parliament.  In Holland and Berlin I had a small siren going in my lapel."

Arthur Wicks says there was no opposition to the armoured car and its siren-sounding occupant at any time. "Generally, people were quizzical," he says. "Some people in Berlin found it allienating."  The armoured car and the Solstice Voyeur came to rest finally in East Berlin at Kino Babylon.

Adrian Wintle
The Daily Advertiser, Saturday, November 17 1990, pp 34,35.





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