The Underpass Motel

This project grew as an extension of a Fellowship awarded to Stuart Elliott in 2006 from ArtsWA – the major arts funding body of the WA Government. Artists involved: Stuart Elliott, Graham Taylor, Patrizia Tonello, Amanda Williams, Peter Dailey, Ben Jones, Richard Heath and Si Hummerston. The Underpass Motel, DVD premiere and gallery exhibition opens at Turner Galleries 9 October - 7 November 2009. www.turnergalleries.com.au Visit the website: http://members.iinet.net.au/~reuham/theunderpassmotel.html

Graham Taylor & Patrizia Tonello video still from Pilgrim’s Progress 2009.

There is a form of art termed 'Fakeology', (fake archaeology). A compressed ‘definition’ of Fakeology would be that work which seeks to engage the relationships between the orthodox gallery environment and that of the cultural or social museum. The resulting objects and images convey a sense of obscure familiarity - not entirely unlike certain strands of surreal or urban folk art.

The Underpass Motel’s premise was to develop a collaborative video work based around a fictional motel located at a cross-roads and as such could be considered a kind of Fakeological myth generator. A motel being a place of ongoing transience and the crossroads being a place of multiple options, these were centrally important elements to the project. In this case however, the crossroads are vertical. A raised, enigmatic causeway, the precise function of which is never explained, crosses above a rutted, obsolete road. This causeway forms a rough demarcation between two zones – an unknown wilderness and a well-populated but uneasy frontier.

Below the causeway (hence its name) and beside the threadbare surface road sits The Underpass Motel, itself vaguely contradictory in structure. The orthodox motel tends to be horizontally arranged and even when multi-storied still appears far longer than high. The classic hotel on the other hand is inevitably vertical. The hotel also has a certain residual glamour. 20th Century popular culture often used it as a dramatic component to imply affluence, even luxury. Where the hotel was generally populated by intelligent, rational people the motel always seemed to be a place of which no good could come – emotionally charged people peering through venetian blinds or ecstatically rolling about on unkempt beds with armfuls of ill-gotten cash. ‘Hotel’ meant dinner and dancing. ‘Motel’ meant take-out and stake-out. The Underpass Motel’s intention was to overlay these two uncomfortable gestalts much like the two roads – the rationally engineered high road and the battered, impulsively used ‘road less travelled’. To compound the developmental possibilities, it remained unclear for what mode of transport the aerial causeway was intended while the scarified terrestrial road appeared as if still in fitful use by conventional means. ‘Fitful use’? At the behest of whom though and under what rationale? Rather than pursuing logical answers, the project endeavours to evolve the questions.

The following are from transcripts of the Underpass Motel project:

"Some say the road less travelled is one of faith or rectitude. But roads less travelled also have the desperate and the careless, those for whom any road is the right road and the journey itself is the primary destination. The Motel used to be gracious and inviting when the highway coursed by its front doors and the world stretched out in all directions. Then the world shrank. The highway’s once nourishing river became the Motel’s stagnant ponds. The grace is long gone but the beckoning is still there.
In the past, it was said that motels had an obligation
to entertain guests. Here at the edge of the world, the guests
entertain the motel.
The Underpass Motel.

Creation is not a huge word but it can groan with meaning.
Communities often think that at their best they are about creation. But crooked business operators and serial criminals often think of themselves as creative. And didn’t that high- minded, ground-breaking physician Dr Frankenstein undergo a bit of disappointment with one of his major creations?

An excited guest once described the causeway arcing above the Motel as being like an event horizon, a corroded metal schematic defining the fault line where the mostly known and the mostly unknown slump heavily against one another.

Then again that guest was pretty excited and it has been said that for every big question, there is a simple answer. And that simple answer is invariably wrong.

One person’s causeway is another person’s underpass. A causeway evokes transcendence, unimpeded mobility and at least short term purpose. An underpass suggests a departing from the light, a reduction of one’s view of the world in exchange for a chthonic intimacy and a stark polarisation of options.

The Underpass Motel is located in half shadow, directly below the causeway."


This project grew as an extension of a Fellowship awarded to Stuart Elliott in 2006 from ArtsWA – the major arts funding body of the WA Government.
Artists involved: Stuart Elliott, Graham Taylor, Patrizia Tonello, Amanda Williams, Peter Dailey, Ben Jones, Richard Heath and Si Hummerston.

The Underpass Motel, DVD premiere and gallery exhibition opens at Turner Galleries 9 October - 7 November 2009. www.turnergalleries.com.au or click here.

The Underpass Motel

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