As an artist, I take in concepts and ideas from various and diverse sources. One writer that I find most interesting in terms of constructing an attitude towards life and my own art practice is American mythology writer Joseph Campbell. In individual terms Campbell spoke of having one’s ears open to ‘the song of the universe’, and of artists as the mythmakers of our times.
As part of my own ministry I am keenly aware of my own environment and how this environment can be made into a contemporary mythology. Previous works I have created include immediate and local references, such as elements of my own local aesthetic and spiritual edifice, the Queensland Art Gallery, as well as local exhibiting and personal spaces.
I began formulating the basic concept of The Art Park Project during a visit to Movie World, one of several theme parks in the south-east Queensland region. At the time my art practice was focused on the Legends of art series, whereupon artists themselves were the focus of the work, mainly in the form of artworks that resembled mass-produced action figures and tableaux.
Wandering around Movie World I could not help but think that much of what surrounded me was exceptionally superficial, and aesthetically and spiritually idolatrous: faux granite statues of Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny, retail outlets overflowing with mass-produced kitsch and overseas tourists posing for photographs alongside a man in a Batman suit!
I envisaged a theme park that I would enjoy visiting, indeed, for me alone. This is how The Art Park Project came into being. I have as yet been unable to undertake extensive travels to visit some of the great art sights around the world. I therefore constructed a scale model of a theme park, which incorporated all of the art objects, art historical buildings and salient artist residences, gathered in the one place: The Art Park.
Instead of travelling to several different continents and multiple countries I could here have an experience of seeing all of the sights in a single day, within the one theme park. Major features of the Park include reconstructions of Robert Smithson’s Spiral jetty, Monet’s Japanese bridge and Waterlilies, New York’s Cedar Bar (the haunt of the Abstract Expressionists), Grant Wood’s American gothic house, and Walter de Maria’s Lightning field.
The Art Park also includes an art gallery filled with 1:1 scale genuine original reproductions of paintings from art history, as well as a cinema that screens artist documentaries throughout the day and feature films based on artists’ lives at night. There is also a feature stage, in which actors playing artists are presented creating their work in the manner peculiar to their own technique.
As the Art Park is primarily for my own amusement, there is obviously no need to include local art references, as I am capable of travelling within Australia to visit pertinent art sights.
For me, The Art Park Project also is a symbol of how a postmodern Australian artist views the world and delves into the nature of reproduction.
Photography: Alasdair Macintyre