Jack MEYER<br/>
<em>Industrial revolution</em> (1971) <!-- (recto) --><br />

transparent synthetic polymer resin, neon, electrical wiring, glass, metal, wire, speaker, tuner, amplifier, tape player, cassette tape, fabric<br />
91.4 x 305.0 x 16.8 cm<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Purchased, 1999<br />
1999.103<br />
© Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer, Industrial Revolution

Industrial revolution (1971)

As you leave the retro cool of  mid-century Australian design and furniture pieces of the Mid-Century Modern  exhibition, you may be surprised by a last minute 3 meter long splash of the seventies that is more kamikazes and wine coolers than dry martinis.

Suspended on the final wall, at the rear of the 1971 Marion Hall Best interior designed for Joan and Richard Crebbin’s Castlecrag home, is Jack Meyers’ sound/wall sculpture Industrial Revolution – a sonic ‘zap machine’.  A shock of fluorescent plastic, intricately choreographed electronic circuitry and neon trance inducing flashing lights.

In a Sydney Morning Herald news article by Nancy Berryman in 1973, the work was described as ‘a switched on mural’. The work is a riotous portend of the decade to come, a medley of neon advertising, wide screen TV and gauche light show made from cutting edge 70’s electronics and speculative composition. See it on YouTube here.

Over the monotones of the suited narration playing in the previous display zone you will hear the abstract instrumental strains of Peter Sculthorpe’s ‘Landscape’ compositions, and when the work is fully operational, the intermittent shrieks of Australian insects

In the words of the artist –

“… The final design reflects the attempt to turn the whole sculpture into a snake-dragon likeness, with the tail coming out of the star at left, linking into legs, arms, and various organs along the way, having the main programming centre in its belly, and finally terminating at its head with its two blinking eyes and green tongue in the radio. When in action it can be seen spiralling in and out of its house in the star and dancing to the music. (It will only come out of its house when you play it good music). “ Handwritten disclaimer – “Some operating instructions, not to be taken too seriously

Forget the urbane restraint of the preceding room interiors, drop out of Uni, join a rock band called Slime and take up surfing… Jack, if you are still out there somewhere send us a sign.

For some more images of the amazingly intricate electronics, plus a description of the challenging testing and preparation of the work prior to this display, please keep an eye out for future posts from the conservation team on the NGV Blog. Our thanks go to local electronics engineer Mike Hewitt who provided invaluable assistance in the assessment and restoration of the work and the posting of the Youtube clips – he can be contacted via the Altona Electronics Group.