There is a fascinating story behind some strangely-entrancing sculptures in a small farm-bound southern Queensland town.
Each was created as an ode to "Speedy" Joseph King - a pineapple farmer in Beerwah, in Queensland’s Glasshouse Mountains. It’s an area that has long been recognised as Brisbane’s fruit salad bowl and pineapples have been grown here for almost a century.
The story goes that back in the 1930s Speedy always got his pineapples to market first and therefore received the best price. Mystery surrounded this because no-one ever saw him picking the pineapples and the townsfolk knew he didn’t have helpers, and yet his pineapples magically appeared at market.
It wasn't until the 1970s that the enigma was, err... "solved" when Speedy’s farm was auctioned - and an array of bizarre machinery the likes of which no-one had seen before was found in his shed. There were four automated walking machines that, working in isolation, sought out and identified ripe pineapples. Those pickers then signalled via a light to a - wait for it - matter transporter operated by Speedy that sent the pineapples to a receiving crate at the Brisbane Markets.
According to the website of Russell Anderson of Art + Design, who created the sculptures in 2014, King apparently wrote about the operation in his journal, calling it "Apparatus for Expedient Market Deployment – Ananas Comosus". Stranger still, the legend goes that "Joseph King disappeared in 1957, leaving no clues to his whereabouts".
Yeah, it’s a bit of a lark and Anderson’s artistic prowess has obviously extended beyond the design of these whimsical spider-like pickers and transporter to creating a fable about his artwork that is as fantastic as the sculptures.
Thanks Russell Anderson Art + Design and Sunshine Coast Council - that's one heck of a tale and we love it!
The sculptures can be found in Simpson Street, which was once the main street of Beerwah, and are crafted from stainless and rusted steel, copper, machined aluminium and are LED-lit at night. I got the distinct impression that had I been there at night that their LED lights would have served as fuel for each, breathing life into these metallic devices and allowing them to scurry after me in a scene reminiscent of a Hitchcock film. Who’s displaying a fertile imagination now?
Anderson’s works are often whimsical and imbued with sci-fi mysticism. You’ll find numerous that have a name starting with “Apparatus” all over the country, and we hope to bring you others into the future. The future? Maybe Anderson has already created an arty contraption that will transport us to this nether dimension sooner than we think!
Beerwah was a great place to spend a couple of days. It’s located via Steve Irwin Way, 80 kilometres north of Brisbane or 25 kilometres from Caloundra. There is plenty of free street parking, with room for those travelling by car or RV.
The name of that road should have given away this town’s worst-kept secret – it’s the home of the famous Australia Zoo. However, there are plenty of other experiences to keep you entertained after your street art encounters. For instance, the Glasshouse Mountain National Park has lovely drive-to lookouts and great walks, so no need to climb these volcanic monoliths. After hearing good things, we also wanted to go to the near-by Parrots in Paradise – a bird rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary where you can also watch the masterminds of the avian world perform clever tricks. It’s a definite for next time.
All that exploring and experiencing left you hungry? We loved the Beerwah Hotel with its pet-friendly rear courtyard for those travelling with their fur-baby.
Oh, and there is a chance that you'll run into one of Speedy’s relatives while at the pub. A quick dip into the history pages for Beerwah shows that there are many long-time residents and farmers with the surname King. So maybe this little tale is not-so-fictitious after all!