Neil Roberts

Pearce, Wade,

"Neil sends towering messages"

Adelaide Advertiser, Review, 1992.

Wade Pearce

Canberra artist Neil Roberts has created one of the Adelaide Festival’s most high-powered works of art.

A 35m electricity tower with flashing purple neon and broadcasting a US time signal stands like a sentinel on North Tce, just east of Morphett St bridge.

It is a symbol of the city’s power structures.

Roberts, who first began working with neon more than 10 years ago, has called his project Transmission Tower (Render to all their Dues). Read the neons and see why.

To the north, facing the railway yards and River Torrens–both symbols of early trade routes–beams: “Custom to whom custom”. Facing south to the State’s first ever church flashes: “Fear to whom fear”.

East along the cultural boulevard of North Tce shines: “Tribute to whom tribute” and to the west, where a monument marks the location of SA’s first school room: “Honor to whom honor”. (sic)

Those who walk close to the crisscross of steel will trigger infrared sensors which switch on a short-wave radio transmitter and will hear US Government’s Coordinated Universal Time Signal.

“The idea of that was for those people who choose to come into the vicinity of the tower,” Roberts said.

“I wanted something that made the tower a conduit linking them with the outside world.

“Apart from what you see in passing, there’s also a more intimate experience you can get.”

Roberts said while the reaction had been mixed, most people were switched on to the message of the tower, which comes down at the end of the Festival.

His work, mostly on a much smaller scale, punctuates the sculptural qualities of everyday objects. One of his major projects involved an 80m steel agricultural sprinkler, which he floated onto a dam in Canberra.

“I just don’t want to be seen as a megalomaniac. It just happens that once in a while I work on ridiculously large projects,” Roberts says.