This post continues on from an article in the Newsletter (#59) about unusual things that people do to show that they’ve been somewhere. It mentioned cairn building, railway sleeper art, and public collections. Here’s another example of a public collection, and if my memory serves me correctly, it’s beside the road between Nyngan and Cobar in Western NSW.
Representing a different genre, which could perhaps be called “commodity sculpture”, are these tool trees (shown below). They can be found at the junction of the Silver City Highway and the turnoff to White Cliffs, and legend has it that they were created by artisans who had just completed their work on the Moomba to Sydney gas pipeline, thus rendering their tools of trade otiose. A touch of humour is created by the sign on the smaller tree which reads “Please don’t water”.
Commodity sculpture originated in the French objet trouvé school, in which objects that were not normally considered art, because they already had a non-art function, were, in the hands of artists such as Picasso and Duchamp, designated as art. This designation was seen to constitute a modification of the object because it changes the viewer’s perception of its utility. Perhaps the most famous example is Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, a standard urinal purchased from a hardware store and displayed on a pedestal.
In contemplating the tool trees, one may wonder why the workers went to so much trouble to fabricate a framework and then weld all the tools to it, rather than just demolish a Port-a-Loo, and mount the dunny seat on a rough pedestal, after Duchamp. It may indicate a certain lack of familiarity with Continental art history, and the objet trouvé school in particular.