Simryn Gill's installation 'Roadkill' consists of small objects, found squashed on the roads of various cities, and fitted with toy wheels. These objects are then placed on the floor in a loose yet compelling configuration: they all face the same direction, relentlessly heading towards an unspecified destination. Clustered together with a herd mentality, they seem to be enacting a group migration, their gathering implying a collective purpose.
Gill's regenerated consumer detritus suggests a circular process - the objects, once they are attached to their new wheels, have become the very thing that crushed them in the first place. Largely discarded consumer packaging, emptied of their contents and no longer useful; Gill has given them a second chance. The violence of the work's title is offset by the toy-like appearance of these new prosthetically enhanced objects and their subtle transformation from disregarded auxiliaries, secondary to their original function of containing or presenting something else, to the main event itself.
Autobiographical and colonial references are more overt in a closely related work, 'Self-Seeds', 1998. In this Gill mounted seed pods with wheels; Gill gathered the seeds and cones in Malaysia, Australia and in Finland where the final work was exhibited. Gill's wheeled pod invaders are playful, and yet these toys are not to be taken lightly. Gill's interest in vegetation stems from the naming, classifying and depicting of species that was integral to the colonising process and which inserted new flora and fauna into hierarchies of development and usefulness.
Gill is not just interested in indigenous species however, she is equally and understandably interested in the introduced. In the conservation ethos that prevails in Australia, where seeds and plants can no longer be brought into the country, Gill sees a worrying subtext of natural and national purity. While motivated by a desire to preserve the fragile native environment, the language used is remarkably similar to that which both the Australian and Malaysian governments now use to police their borders from unwarranted foreigners.
The circulation and reception, of images, objects and ideas, is central to her practice. The use of wheels reflects the cultural nomadism and the gentle but insightful humour frequently at play in these works. This relatively simple gesture carries a great deal of weight however, suggestive of mobility, migration, and consumer desires in a world where circulation has become a defining process. As Virginia Ross has written, 'Roadkill' is "...an artwork which transcends its location, its materials, its intellectual grounding and just is, really is, a profound work of art."
found run-over objects, toy wheels
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2001
Not on display
© Simryn Gill
Shown in 5 exhibitions
A small town at the turn of the century, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth, 26 Jan 2001–04 Mar 2001
Simryn Gill: selected works, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 Jul 2002–22 Sep 2002
Transpacifico, Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda, Chile, 17 May 2007–22 Jul 2007
Curious Cars and Miniature Movers, Ipswich Art Gallery, Ipswich, 14 Feb 2009–10 May 2009
Referenced in 15 publications
John Barrett-Lennard (Editor), A small town at the turn of the century, Perth, 2001, (colour illus.).
John Barrett-Lennard, PICA guide, 'A small town at the turn of a century, Simryn Gill', Perth, Jan 2001-Feb 2001, (illus.). no pagination
John Clarke, The Cambridge companion to Australian Art, ''Asian art' in Australia', pg. 217-230, Port Melbourne, 2011, 230, 363. fig.no. 17.12 (colour illus., detail; colour illus.), between pg. 220 and 221.
Alexie Glass, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Rubbish trip', Sydney, 08 Sep 2000-14 Sep 2000, Metro: 30 (colour illus.). reproduction is a detail
Donna Hinton, Look, 'To restore or leave alone? Changing views and requirements in art museum conservation', pg. 14-16, Sydney, Apr 2012, 14-15 (colour illus.). reproduction on pg. 15 is a detail
Kajri Jain, Here art grows on trees: Simryn Gill, 'Pause', pg. 163-184, Sydney, 2013, 169.
Josefina de la Maza, Transpacifico, 'About encounters and mirages', pg. 40-44, 2007, 22 (colour illus.), 43. reproduction is a detail
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Contemporary Visual Arts, 'Roadkill: repitition and difference', London, 2000, 29 (colour illus.).
Virginia Ross, Like, art magazine, 'Roadkill', Melbourne, Autumn 2001, 44 (illus.).
Chaitanya Sambrani, Art and Australia (Vol. 42, No. 2), 'Other realities, someone else's fictions: The tangled art of Simryn Gill', pg. 216-225, Sydney, Dec 2004-Feb 2005, 221 (colour illus.).
Russell Storer, Artlink, vol.21, no.2, 'Playthings, some contemporary artists and their objects', pg.37-41, Adelaide, Winter 2001, 39 (colour illus.).
Jill Sykes, Look, 'Questions and more questions: an artist who sees her work as thinking aloud', pg.22-25, Sydney, Jul 2002, 23 (colour illus.), 24. reproduction is a detail
Wayne Tunnicliffe, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Cultural memory, critical distance', pg.154-203, Sydney, 2006, 158, 169 (colour illus.), 170-171 (colour illus.). reproduction on pg.169 is a detail
Wayne Tunnicliffe, Simryn Gill: selected works, 'Self selection', pg.5-11, Sydney, 2002, 9-11, 48-49 (colour illus.), 50-51 (colour illus.). reproduction on pages 48-49 is a detail
Editor Unknown (Editor), Zoo Magazine, Unknown, 2001, cover (colour illus.).