Is Australian Silo Art Racist?

Australia’s obsession with bad art done big continues to run, with country towns across the nation falling over themselves to be part of this embarrassing trend. There are even “Silo Trails”, (or should that be “trials”?) where you can plan a trip based around the intersection of the world’s least imaginative artists with the least imaginative commissioning bodies.

But are they racist? Silo art is, with some (sadly too few) exceptions, overwhelmingly old whitey nostalgia. Backward looking, blinkered, generally barely rising above the level of chocolate box kitsch of a white Australia of early 20th century. Often the topic will be tea towel style paintings of draught horses, shearers, steam trains, or Diggers/slouch hat based works executed with the skills of hack commercial artists pre photoshop. And many of the artists are internationally based! Is it not absurd to get an artist from say Hawaii or Mongolia to come all the way here to paint Australian cliché? Wot. The. Fuck. There’s seldom a contemporary work, or one that acknowledges the tens of thousands of years of history that happened before merinos arrived.

I’m for artists getting paid, there’s far too little of that. But like doctors, artists, or perhaps more appropriately named “Civic Decorators” should have an oath. “First do no harm.” Bad silo art has become a cottage industry based on the shaming of our rural built environment. Even if the work was good, – and it is an unwritten rule that silo art has to be bad -it would still be a terrible idea to paint on them. Based on an ignorance and contempt for the beauty of these structures, promoters of these towers of bad taste have set about to ruin all our historic country towns.

Towns that have chosen to simply depict one teeeedious slice of white nostalgia should be excluded from any promotion of silo trails. Because yes, if you have chosen to ignore the wonderful diversity that is rural Australia and focus on a few decades of whiteness. Then yes, that is racist.

I’m not going to add any photos here, because they are so terrible. but if you really want to see some giant chocolate box crap with a small scattering of exceptions, try here.

Published by AHC McDonald

Comedian, artist, photographer and critic. From 2007 to 2017 ran the culture and satire site The Worst of Perth

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