Cars and Culture: Our Driving Passions explores Australians’ love affair with the automobile through seven essays, personal stories and fabulous images.
In literature, music, painting, advertising and film, cars have helped to define our sense of who we are and to shape our ideas of work and play, home and travel, comfort and danger. They have become part of the family but also symbols of freedom and independence, statements of identity, fashion accessories, sex aids and objects of desire.
It is not an accident that some cars look desirable; they have inspired design dreamers throughout the 20th century in the pre-eminent marriage of technology and style. Their impact goes far beyond engine development and body detailing. Cars and Culture looks at how cars have transformed the countryside itself: towns, roads, freeways, service stations, motels, roadside restaurants, billboards – all were created for the moving vehicle.
Cars are now breeding twice as fast as people yet this very popularity threatens their future. They pollute the environment, gobble finite resources and make everyday travel a life-or-death experience. They can bring out the worst in otherwise mild-mannered people, inciting them to rage. Would we endure such a catalogue of problems if the justification was mere usefulness? Regardless of practical considerations, cars give too much pleasure, both visual and visceral, to be denied, so Cars and Culture considers not only the future of the car but the personal – and often passionate – relationships between people and machine.
Co-published by Powerhouse Publishing and HarperCollins Publishers in conjunction with the Powerhouse Museum. The Cars and Culture exhibition was sponsored by the NRMA.