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GOD'S GREEN FALCON - a photograph by Robin Morrison

Devils Advocate

Parked in pride of place, prominent in foreground centre lower third, kissed parallel to the curb, is the 1975 XB Ford Falcon Station Wagon. Extravagant, utilitarian - but with stately comfort, and proudly honouring the tradition of those big cars of the American automobile industry stretching back many many years.

It is a reassuring shade of green - nothing of the stuffy darkness of British racing green, but instead fresh and I would guess at ‘olive’ perhaps. Which seems fitting, given that background centre to centre left, in a painting that declares itself with spatial ownership, is God. God too is olive green, which attributes in the photographers mind anyway, ownership of the Falcon - hence God's Green Falcon. I like the colour, and as it was the Greeks who thrust the concept of God or Gods into our western lives, the idea of it being olive sits well with me. Unfortunately the manufacturer has it listed as ‘Frosted Lime’

God levitates in the light - a large rectangular white panel of paint that measures some 15ft high x 25ft in width, the lower half of which is painted in black, rollered with cresting edge, that while not stormy, remains ominous - levitates just above the stygian mire.

I've come across this image while flicking through a book of photographs by Robin Morrison titled ‘At Home and Abroad’. Morrison at the time was regarded as New Zealand’s most highly regarded photographer. He died in 1993 at the young age of 48. Of Morrison’s photographs, Metro Magazine at publication said ‘Like all good art, Morrison’s photographs excite because of the room they leave the viewers to supply their own reactions to what is there. The result is insight and delight’. Morrison on the jacket simply says ‘they are to be enjoyed: they are an entertainment of life and places.’

I'm killing time, waiting for the game, twenty minutes to kickoff. My anticipation of which spills into this image, as between God's green Falcon and God, snug to the upstage curb and more than partially obscured, is perhaps God's old car, a 1966 HD or (HR?) Holden. They almost jostle for favour, drawn equal and stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. And it is this competition between Ford and Holden, that has frequently drawn battle lines between petrolhead race fanatics, that reminds me of tonight’s upcoming Trans-Tasman competition when the Wallabies take on the All Blacks.

I move quickly to new thoughts, not really wishing to indulge this 'us' and 'them' mentality and find segue in the road - where the road goes to and where it has come from. It’s a mystery. All we can conclude is that this is an urban locale, and so it likely leads from and to, the utilities - cafes, shops, takeaways, banks, pubs and other institutions that make living in a built up environment possible. Where it goes to or departs from is of little import, as the destination, here where the photo has been taken is key. It is indeed in this captured frame, a space for us to provide narratives, assumptions, judgements and to derive insights, entertainments, delights, and the dialogue that ensues says as much about us as the place itself.

It is a frame of layered panels, from foreground to back, to back beyond and further still. The frame is stacked you might say, and God sits just forward in perspective to a more ancient looking section of wall, appearing proud of it's fustian old-brick facade, daubed with strokes of what looks to be Arabic text, and is perhaps an earlier iteration of God, now reworked to this palimpsest aesthetic.

Ruins of crumbling steps make their way past the pre-current iteration and up around the back to a hidden entrance. Adjacent to said entrance, at far back right is a window. This speaks of the quotidian - a portal to things mortal, a sub-let, a tenancy? It suggests perhaps God's occupation as landlord (overlord) and we the groundlings tied into leasing.

Of course the prominence of the automobile in photography is nothing new, the 20th century is littered with contrived images, as ad agencies sought to increase revenues, by placing cars in exotic locations or posed with purposeful beauties. These range from the overt and sexualised, to the subtle and documentary. BMW has said that it attempts to capture the zeitgeist in its marketing offerings. But to Ford and Holden ‘zeitgeist’ is just a foreign word with a similar number of letters to Petrolhead, and as to God and zeitgeist and a road trip, well that's another story.

However you choose to present the product, there’s only one basic rule, according to auto marketing boffins: photograph a car from about eight metres away and you won’t make any major blunders in interpreting its design. That’s important. So for car manufacturers it became no longer just about a sexy paint job and eye-catching design, but about using images to tell a story.

So what of God's Green Falcon, what's the story here?

Well my perspective is that the photographer’s got it wrong.

This isn't God's car. It is after all parked across the street and therefore more likely to be his neighbour Satan's - and the ‘frosted lime’? It’s just him adding a sour note in his eternal stance as provocateur. Or perhaps this is a suburb populated by Gods plural, where individuality and distinction is prized, and being car-proud very likely determines the extent of your congregation - my God drives a Ford, your God drives a Holden. Whichever way you look at it, religion, cars or sport, it still stacks up as an 'us' and 'them' scenario, where sides are important, big names count and competition is heated. Go the AB’s!


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