ACT News

Gang-gang: Brisbane artist turns towering silos into (very) public art

Beanies and mittens on as yet again this column prepares to take us to bracing at this time of year Norway and to the subject of what we might learn from Norwegians.

First, though, to explain today's column's spectacular picture of painted silos, to something Canberra might learn from the example of Brim, a hamlet in Victoria's Wimmera.

The silos at Brim.
The silos at Brim. Photo: Guido van Helten.

This column is always nagging Canberra about our city's timidity about public art and so leaps to promote this bold role model for us. The decorated silos at Brim are the work of Brisbane street artist Guido van Helten. The wondrous work has been generated by the Brim Active Community Group, supported by among others GrainCorp, Regional Arts Victoria and Yarriambiack Shire Council. You can read all about it (and a very fine and well-written story it is too, by Danielle Grindlay,) at the ABC Rural website

Whenever in future ACT governments are philistine-fearingly timid and wussy about public art we will shame them by contrasting them with the fearless, progressive Yarriambiack Shire Council. Meanwhile the Brim work, the sheer scale of it, should have us dreaming about how Canberra's plain edifices and plain places might be made thrilling to behold. And the delicious cost of doing it would knot the knickers of this city's bean counters and philistines. Good! We have shown them too much mercy for too long.

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But back to Norway, to how we may unintentionally have been giving Norwegians what looks like a bad press, and to how it is time now to sing their praises.

Eco-friendly plug-in car. Picture by theAllstateBlog.

Eco-friendly plug-in car. Photo: theAllstateBlog

To explain, firmly velcroed-on readers will know that recent columns have looked at a study done in a Norwegian town that showed, researcher Kari Marie Norgaard found, the townspeople too filled with "a sense of helplessness, dread and personal guilt" over climate change to even be able to bring themselves to discuss it. We have been wondering if Canberra and Canberrans, to our ears eerily silent on this great big subject, were behaving in the way the insighful Norgaard describes.

It wasn't our intention to be rude about Norwegians (what we were trying to say was that Norgaard may be describing something true of First World mankind). But Canberra reader Ann-Lone Thwaites thought it was time this column congratulated Norwegians for something. Prick up your ears, Canberra motorists!

"As a Dane I would normally feel competitive with Norwegians in the same good-natured way people here compete across the Tasman Sea. Except of course when we're on the other side of the world, because then we're suddenly relatives. So therefore I must leap to Norway's defence when they're accused of avoiding climate issues.

"For did you know that Oslo is the electric car capital of the world? Norway has more electric cars per capita than any other country. A visiting Norwegian engineer to CSIRO just before Christmas could tell us how cleverly Norway has been handling its considerable oil wealth in a way that promotes a clean environment and changes people's attitudes.

"We recently felt inspired to buy a plug-in Nissan Leaf, the most expensive car we've ever owned. Had we lived in Norway we could have bought the same car tax-free!

"And that's not the only incentive the Norwegian government gives people who drive electric cars. We would be allowed to drive our electric Leaf in the bus lane. Ferry rides would be free. We wouldn't have to pay road toll and road tax and as for parking, there would be special places allocated for us where we could fast charge our car – again for free.

"Perhaps the most interesting effect of this policy according to the Norwegian engineer, is that it is changing the way Norwegians talk about climate change. Everybody loves to tell you about their new car and Norwegians will tell you that they bought the plug-in electric car because they care about the environment. I wonder if the Australian government could be inspired to be just as imaginative?"

Just a little Googling unearths statistics galore to confirm our correspondent's report to us. Norway has the highest number of plug-in vehicles per capita in the world. As of August last year it had almost 66,000 of them. In March 2014 Norway became the first country on our dear, struggling little planet where more than one in every 100 passengers cars is a plug-in electric vehicle.

There is though some debate over whether Norwegians are embracing these planet-friendly vehicles out of an urgent sense of the planet's plight or because of the sweet incentives (as described by our correspondent) given to encourage folk to buy these plug-in contraptions. Not that that matters, as long as planetary Good is being done.

Meanwhile Oslo, so progressive and grown-up about these sorts of things, has long since embraced trams. The city has no anti-tram whingers (Canberra has, including the Can The Tram cult, recent winner of this column's 2015 UnCanberran of the Year gong). Instead the city is blessed with a fine tram network that from the most recent figures to hand is 131 kilometres long and has a joyous daily ridership of 132,000 souls.