Heidi McGeoch

Iron Clad, 2019

Galvanised steel 44 gallon drums— used
Dimensions variable

Heidi McGeoch | Iron Clad

Image: Keith Maxwell

Iron Clad is an installation work of 44-gallon drums that are loosely positioned in a configuration that is familiar in rural settings. These fuel stores are abundant, seen in sheds and paddocks in various stages of repair and decay.

The installation’s configuration in groups and avenues enables the viewer to observe around and between the forms. Drums are stacked upright in various heights and combinations, rising skywards hinting at their industrial past.

While making this work, I was impressed with how easy it was to move, lift and stack the hollow vessels that had previously stored honey.

In 1905, during the petroleum production boom, Nellie Bly recognised the need for an efficient metal drum construction that was watertight for the shipping transportation of oil, gasoline, and whale oil. She acquired the patent rights from its inventor, Henry Wehrhahn, who worked at her ‘Iron Clad Manufacturing Company’. “I finally worked out the steel package to perfection, patented the design, put it on the market and taught the American public to use the steel barrel,” said Nellie Bly. This effective icon of modern industrial life is the prevailing 44-gallon drum still in use today.