a look at the car as an object related to personal experience, material qualities and global concequences
People like to give value to objects. Things that we see and touch. We collect, use, make, observe and trade them according to the value we assign them. Through making and crafting - producing - objects we alter their shape, feel appearance and function based on the aspects of the object we value the most. We design objects. We surround ourselves with objects, we sometimes even objectify things that arguably should not be objectified - that are in reality not objects. We appropriate natural material, biological material and even living beings as objects. Some objects are produced for consumption and have a short lifespan, others objects can last for centuries or even millennia. The oldest known object found on earth is a 4.4 billion year old crystal. Objects that are created for a certain function can be valued for a non-functional aspect - and lose its function - or keep its function but due to its increased value be kept from functioning. Objects can also lose their value.
On the second of October 2018 I was walking home when a speeding police car caught my attention. As an object the police car signifies action, trouble, danger, authority and triggers a feeling of anxiety. The police car was heading in direction of my house. As I turned the corner leading into my street I saw a crowd standing in the middle of the street looking at something further down a side street, the flashing light from the police cars illuminating their faces. Some of them were holding recording objects. The object they were looking at was a burning BMW 5 series sedan, model code F10, produced from 2010 to 2017 - a 7 year model life cycle, the average for a BMW automobile. The 5 series is an object designed by people, but also by systems of value ingrained in the brand, the perceived and analyzed wish of the intended consumer, ideas of maximizing profit and reducing production costs, and the techniques of production themselves.
The car is a dynamic object and signifies mobility, freedom, technology, status, privilege, pollution and danger. This object was on fire, in the street, following a loud explosion that occurred through unknown circumstances. It was an intriguing spectacle. A group of firemen struggled with their fire-extinguishing objects in an attempt to put out the fire. When the fire was put out, the car was left as an object without value. It had lost its most important functions, and its appearance was now too disturbing for public display. The next day the car carcass had been removed, all that was left was an outline of the car caused by the fire on the brick road, and a pile of scrap pieces left by the firemen. I walked over to the pile and found an interesting object.
The BMW kidney grille is a famous design trait of cars from the brand. Its two symmetrical round shapes resemble the human organs they are named after. The grilles function is to let air through the radiator, providing cooling to the engine. It has vertical slats relating to the industrial look of early automotive grilles. The grille is shaped by BMWs design language and has evolved over generations of models. It has to be aerodynamic, and meet international crash safety standards. The grille appears to be chromed metal, but is in fact made from plastic with a chrome-like coating. In a pile of trash on the street, partly broken from a fireman hitting it with an axe, the lone kidney grille does not say much about the BMW design heritage, engine cooling or human organs. The object, separated from its context and deprived of its function, has lost meaning and value.
We like to control objects, but the systems we place our objects in renders them out of control. The car was intended to bring freedom and individual mobility, but has ended up causing pollution, congestion and environmental issues. Its infrastructure and mass production requirements feed the economy whilst devouring resources and tearing at the urban fabric. As an object the car is effectively threatening its own existence by the impact it has on the urban and global environment.
project guided by Elena Khurtova and Marie Ilse Bourlanges
presented in Stedelijk Museum as part of Rietveld Uncut 2019