Black and White Photography


Wheatbelt Blog 2 - Silo Murals

Oct 17th, 2020 • UncategorisedStories

This is in draft, and has yet to have images added

Fact, the underlying form of an object determines its aesthetic qualities.  If the underlying form is not beautiful no amount of decoration can make it beautiful.

Douglas Adams wrote “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression "as pretty as an airport". Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort.”

Concrete silos are not pretty, and rarely beautiful, but they are not ugly.  They are functional structures that were designed to be exactly what they are.  They possess a monumental magnificence and an aesthetic purity.

In the 1970s Bernd and Hilla Becher drew attention to the formal qualities of industrial structures in Europe, mainly Nordrhein-Westfalen, in their series BASIC FORMS OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDING.  The Bechers images alerted us to the formal qualities of these structures, particularly when shown as grids of images.

The silos are signal reminders that the whole landscape surrounding them has been destroyed, what was once an amazingly diverse landscape has been turned to a uniform pattern of wheat and salt flats.  When I look at silos I am reminded of the environmental desolation surrounding them on a whole of landscape scale.  I accept we need food and the Wheatbelt provides food and export income, but we must not forget the cost to the environment this wheat and barley has caused.

Paraphrasing Churchill in 1940 "Never before in the history of human conquest has so much desolation been done on so vast a scale on so huge a landform by so few people in such a short period of time."

In Western Australia there is a current craze to use concrete grain silos as surfaces to paint huge and expensive murals on.  These murals are now touted as tourist attractions.  While I don’t dispute the need for small towns to increase their income, to use the grain silos as surfaces to paint on does not add one jot of beauty to these structures and detracts from their formal purity.  Putting lipstick on a pig does not make it fuckable.

In general the painting quality is good, and much of the graphic quality is good.  I will not comment on the quality of the chosen imagery for the paintings except to note that in many cases it appropriates the very flora and fauna the development of the Wheatbelt has driven to near extinction.  My argument is against their very existence.

A few people are saying they prefer to have the silos left unpainted and possibly used for projection of images at night, vastly cheaper, vastly more diverse in artwork shown and could be much more fun. And in terms of public or community art projection could be a way of showing work from lots of local groups or schools as well as images brought in from outside.  At the end of the evening the images will disappear, the best thing for them.

The planned Wellington Dam mural and the other murals along the Collie tourist route will cost an estimated $4.400, 000.  I know of too many people in the SW who are homeless.  Collie does need to be brightened up, but that can be done for far less than four and a half million and house a few people. .


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