National Metal Industry Sculpture Project

The National Metal Industry Sculpture Project was conceived and coordinated by Robert Mangion between 1992 -95. It was developed in conjunction with the Australian Manufacting Workers Union and key metal Industry organisations including Aero Space Technology Australia in Melbourne, Transfield in Perth  and ACL Bearings in Launceston. The project was  facilitated by local state government including The City of Melbourne, The City of Perth and The City of Launceston and was funded by the Visual Art board of the Australia Council for the Arts.


The objectives of the National Metal Industry Sculpture Project were to establish three arts residencies within the metal manufacturing industry which encouraged creative and technical exchange through the use of diverse and high quality skills being utilized across the industry. The project aimed to provide a unique opportunity to examine, research and experiment with interdisciplinary approaches to creative and technical skills transfer in an environment which would foster dialogical and collaborative exchange.


It was the view of all concerned that every attempt be made during the duration of the project to establish interaction between work processes currently used within the metal industry and the technical process as used by the artists working  with industrial materials. The focus of this exchange would examin how  current technology and organization,interact to influence the creative and productive process and  how the conceptual process aid in the development of design. The team of  art workers assigned to the project  included Chris Reynolds in Melbourne, Tina Benfield in Launceston and Kevin Draper in Perth.


Specific interaction would take  the form of collaborative exchange, where the artist engaged  with a core group of factory workers who would then assist in the development of the sculpture through their technical expertise  and the artist directing and explaining the aesthetic process. Both contributing an exchange of work methods as a collaborative effort.

Drawing inspiration from  constructivist models, the National Metal Industry Sculpture Project set out to revitalise discussions on collaborative process and public art. Positioning art process within the  context of industrial,social and dialogical exchange as its key objective. This heralded an engagement with the public and the use of public space as a platform for debate at a time when the discussion regarding  interaction between art and public were generally controlled through  hierarchical structures of academic and institutional discourse. By encouraging public access to art production process the National Metal Industry Sculpture Project set out  to democratise the closed sanctity of artistic creation and art criticism.


All outcomes of the National Metal Industry Sculpture Project have been publicly situated providing cultural accessibility and  interaction for the broader community.   The Tasmanian project completed on the 14th of  May 1995 was officially handed over to the City of Launceston in the unveiling ceremony of the 27th of August on the grounds of the Launceston Museum. The Perth project was completed on the 4th of April 1995 with the installation of the finished sculpture "Metal Trees" at the Joondalup Sports complex. The Melbourne project was completed on the 31st of July 1995 with the installation of the finished artwork "A History Apparatus" at the corner of Russel and Burke street in the city of Melbourne.


Bill Hartley