architecture, film, roadtrip, topographics

silo roadtrip on Mallee Highway

April 26, 2016

Another 8×10 road trip will be taking  place next week. This time it is a road trip through the Mallee in South Australia and Victoria in order to photograph the silos along the Mallee Highway.  I will be camping at Ouyen in Victoria with Gilbert Roe. Let’s hop the weather has cooled down by then.

I scoped this  last year during  the spring when I was on my Canberra trip with both  the digital Sony NEX-7 and the old Rolleiflex SL66.  I will be using  an 8×10 camera ( for black and white) and a 5×7 camera ( for colour).  The project  works in the tradition of the aesthetic as a realm of experience  being separate from the instrumental thinking of both daily life and the market’s economic reason.Though the approach  is historical in orientation it will be quite different to the road trips of David Marks  between  2001-6  where he used  Diana and Polaroid cameras.

I cannot remember the individual silos in the small towns.For instance I cannot  recall which town on the Mallee Highway this particular silo is in that I made with the Rolleiflex SL66.  Maybe  it was around Walpeup or Underbool in Victoria:

silo+house, Mallee Highway

silo+house, Mallee Highway

I never took any notes on the trip. I was just scoping  the various silos to see if this  economic architecture  could constitute a conceptual  type  photography project—-something along the lines of ’13 silos on the Mallee Highway’.  It is conceptual in the sense that I first came up with the title, then proceeded to photograph the subject on one of my road trips from Adelaide  (my hometown) to Tooleybuc just south of the River Murray . The work of art is to be the book itself, simply but carefully designed.

However, unlike Ed Ruscha’s 1960’s   book,  Twentysix Gasoline Stations, where the photographs inside the book looked as if the artist had merely pointed the camera out the car window in order to fulfill the requirements of the textual phrase, my silo photos will not be deadpan photographs. The serial representations of the various  silos on the specific locations along the Mallee Highway will look carefully composed,  as in the Becher’s tradition.

The Bechers  worked with a group of shots of one specific type of architectural structure  (gas tanks, grain silos or elevators,  water towers, blast furnaces, storage barns) would be displayed together, either  in a monograph or hung in a grid, in order to create a placed an emphasis on formal comparison or “typology”–a “typology” of architectural form. This archival schema incorporates the past into the present and points  that present to a future.

silo+stones, Mallee Highway

silo+stones, Mallee Highway

It is the “concept” that drives the Becher’s  work—the concept that there are families of industrial forms, that utilitarian architecture can be appreciated for its aesthetics, and that these buildings can be re-framed and re-presented as sculptures.  The other other major element in  the Bechers’ work is memory, or preservation; albeit   memory entirely devoid of sentimentality or nostalgia, for their consistently straightforward style prevents the injection of emotion into any of the images. As viewers of their photos  we have no idea if the factory in front of us still stands today, or was leveled years ago.

I am taking  up a particular past in  the Mallee and rearticulating it with a new and different force in the present. It is a project about modernisation not globalisation, and though the silos are   to be photographic straight on, there  is  a melancholic mode due to a sense of loss  associated with opening up the Malle for farming.   It is an  attempt to hold on to and find delight in the great beleaguered promise of Australia’s   agricultural modernity’s past over and above the critique of that past that is still vital in the present.

Beyond the conceptual book —13 silos on the Mallee Highway’–-lies an  archive of these industrial forms structured around a dream of  history.

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