Perpetual West, Princes Freeway, Werribee
Public art proposal for the Western Roads Upgrade Commission, 2019
Perpetual West takes ‘Bhāskara’s wheel’ as its starting point. A 12th century
experiment designed by Indian mathematician-astronomer Bhāskara II, this
spoked wheel and flowing mercury mechanism aimed to induce constant
dynamic equilibrium. Alongside other early medieval perpetual motion
machines, “magic wheels” point to a long history of fabricated artefacts that
promise energy, liberation from conventional wisdom, and the notion of running
forever. So too does the romantic notion of ‘The West’ appear as something just
always out of reach, ever on the horizon, beyond our familiar and comfortable
existence. Here it manifests as a strange, perhaps even alien, relic of what the
future may hold for Melbourne’s west.
During the day, a giant glass-reinforced concrete wheel with two polished brass
orbs fixed to a steel frame attest to the long history and still-possible aspirations
for a manufacturing heartland in the region. By night, a inner red neon ring
appears and surrounding pink neon strips call out otherworldly possibilities:
connection to new space technologies, mini-satellite construction, and other
future-focussed prototyping that can continue the strong legacy of the west.
This proposal has been conceived by artist/architect Matthew Bird, with
additional historical research by urbanist Charity Edwards.