The NGV has taken a dip into shallow waters when it comes to its new and exciting Neon Pink Car Wash Exhibition. Winner of the NGV’s 2016 Architectural Commission, the Neon Pink Car Wash is all glamour and all fun. Designed by the Melbourne-based M@ STUDIO architects, a Blackburn car wash is reimagined and immerses itself in the realm of fantasy. Suburbia intertwines with surrealism, and suddenly something as ordinary and unremarkable as a car wash becomes a gaudy pink playground. The structure consists of five neon astro-turf car lanes and a body made of lightweight steel and layered cricket netting; all materials sourced from within Australia. A mirrored car wash sign is plastered in front of the car wash to entice both adults and children to wander where the boundaries of familiarity and unfamiliarity overlap.
The modern car wash has its origins in the early 20th century when men used to push cars through the stages of the process, but then developed into a vast mid-century enterprise. The concept of the middle class dwelling in the great suburban expanse can be traced back to the post-World War II era when car ownership exploded and saw people leave the city for suburban Arcadia. The world had changed drastically and consumerist culture became a dominant aspect of people’s lives.
The Neon Pink Car Wash is the physical manifestation of a postmodernist society, where perhaps the days of architecture and art having to be either intellectual or particularly meaningful are over. What if could we just allow society to dream within the confines of an urban space? What if we shift the focus from old ideals that have long disintegrated and been left behind in the old world, to the capitalistic world of today? The NGV may have caught on to the simple fact that most people don’t want to have to think hard about art, let alone architecture.
The Pink Neon Car Wash is meaningful only on the basis that is has no meaning. It doesn’t embody any values, morals or ultimate truths. It is just an urban structure that has the sole purpose to provide a consumer service. Art reflects society, it reflects people and it reflects our shared values. Architectural pieces like this are a reflection of us. While the idea of a Pink Neon Car Wash with nothing much to say might tickle some the wrong way, the fact is that its simplicity is rather alluring. Children are easily seduced by its bright colours and adults are hit with a weird combination of nostalgia and novelty that draws them to it. The concept of a bright pink giant car wash is ridiculous and asinine; it makes as much sense as a Tarantino movie and is just as shameless. Yet how is our modern society any different? We live in a neon world of superficiality and aimless, wistful dreaming.
The M@ STUDIO architects are merely mirroring what they can observe in Melbourne suburbia and quite clearly the winning place of the NGV’s 2016 Architecture Commission rightfully belongs to the Pink Neon Car Wash. It accurately and unflinchingly depicts what our community is drawn to; consumerism. The exhibition is being facilitated as a fantastical space for various events to occur over the spring and the summer, and visitors of the NGV will have no trouble whatsoever being in tune with this strange piece of architecture. They will fact find many parts of themselves within the shimmering cricket netted walls and neon pink rubberised waves.