Towards a classification system for Mt Panorama ring pulls

This is my entry for the 2013 Waste to Art exhibition here in Bathurst. It’s silly and the artwork itself is ugly. Anyway, it’s good to participate!

Ring pull artwork

Title: Left, right, straight and folded: towards a classification system for Mt Panorama ring pulls, 2013.

Artist: Tracy Sorensen

Media: Hobbytex and found ring pulls on old stained bed sheet, stapled to Peter Andren Independent foam core election poster in a damaged op-shop frame.

Measurements: 50cm x 40cm

Place of execution: Bathurst, NSW, Australia

My black Labrador, Bertie, loves to go for walks at McPhillamy Park on the top of Mount Panorama. I always keep my eye out for ring pulls to add to my collection. Like specks of gold in an alluvial landscape, Mt Panorama’s ring pulls shift and show themselves after a good rain. It’s always good pickings, then.

Detachable ring pulls for drink cans were a phenomenon of the 1960s and 70s; by the 1980s, they had been discontinued because of concerns about litter and the way their sharp edges could hurt bare feet. Now, partly hidden in the dirt, they are nostalgic, suggestive objects. Their individual shapes are determined by the hands that originally tore them from the can. The unconscious movements of people – men, mostly – on top of a mountain, watching cars, getting drunk, are all captured in these objects.

My grid pattern emphasizes how each ring pull “hangs”: the pivot-point sits at the apex of an orange and purple mountain; the tab swings to the left (purple) or to the right (orange) or follows the meeting-point of the two colours (straight). The retrieval and display of the ring pulls suggests the struggle to gather and contain past moments and give them meaning. The domestic impulse to tame and stitch down wild masculine moments is represented by the stained bed sheet. This domestic impulse has failed; the sheet is filthy and may need to be thrown out or used as a rag.

The vivid Hobbytex colours celebrate the overwhelming, exuberant designs popular in the 1960s and 70s; the domestic art of painting with Hobbytex was itself a fad of those times. The bright colours, hand-painted, are also a reminder of a time when the car race itself was more colourful, heterogeneous, hand made, less blandly unified by corporate interests. Hobbytex, like the internal combustion engine, gives off powerful fumes. There is nothing non-toxic about Hobbytex paint.

We no longer have dangerous detachable ring-pulls. Fume-ridden Hobbytex painting would never pass muster as a children’s hobby today. But the fossil-fuel burning internal combustion engine – a danger to the entire planet – is still celebrated every year at Mt Panorama.

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