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Friday, August 27, 2010

The amazing Ross Byers and his mercurial kinetic carts

A rain-soaked square bustling with people. A fire-engine red circus tent billowing in the winter squall, inhaling, exhaling, canvas, people, music. Ice-cream-coloured umbrellas, confetti-scattered in trees, swoop and tremble overhead. A lumbering wooden cart, wagon-wheeled, imposes its presence into the scene - its open caravan crowned with a Mad Hatter's teapot, tea cosy-knitted and towering three metres into the bristling sky. Its companion - a giant purple flower, a triffid, sprouting from the front. Is this Launceston? The 21st century? A chimera?
He appears shaking a totem, a Medusa-head of mythical creatures peeking and poking this way and that, snaked in their parti-coloured woolly costumes. Not a court jester, for he is the one holding court. Mercurius, maybe, the patron of travellers; a messenger, but also a trickster. Coyote. And like the Pied Piper calling his children, a swell of youngsters suddenly appear, surrounding him to follow, to skip, to chant.

"Who wants to carry the totem?" he calls and in the call is a challenge, a duty. Dozens of anticipatory fingers stretch forward to pluck the honour. "You must call out, 'hear yea', hear yea'," he commands and as the chant rings out across the square he picks up the yoke and starts pulling the colossal rig like an equipage.

And everything is in an inharmonious motion on top of the cart, as if tinkered with by da Vinci, Leunig, Dr Seuss. Teapot rocking. A piston can of Home Brand coconut cream, empty now, rising and falling. A lazy susan spinning a merry-go-round cardboard whale, a hand-made miniature replica cart made from an old cabinet and fencing wire, a juxtaposed computer-generated prototype of the same. And like dancers taking centre stage on a revolving dance floor, more imaginary creatures rock back and forth in time to the unsounded music that only they can hear.

Is this sculpture? Architecture? Engineering? Theatre? It is all of these and yet no genre will translate the experience.

This is magic. Conjuring. Fantasy. Artistry. This is Ross Byers and his Tour de Clarendon Kinetic Carts. Prepare to be spellbound.

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