Carfree Creatives

crushedIn March 2009 Martin Kaltwasser and Folke Köbberling, two artists from Berlin, Germany, took part in the car cult exhibition in Prague along with Carbusters. Their works, which include Crushed Cayenne, a white wood sculpture Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and bicycle made from recycled car parts, depict the occupation of public space and wastefulness of capitalism. With an impressive portfolio of installations, exhibitions and specific interventions, their latest works have concentrated on the car and its negative effects – reflecting their carfree lifestyle and influences from both the ecological and social environment. Carbusters caught up with Folke Köbberling to ask her thoughts on car culture, arts and the exhibition.

“Crushed Cayenne” is a replica of a SUV made from recycled materials. What inspired you create this piece?

We are living in a car-dominated environment. Being carfree, Martin and I wanted to express our views on this, in particular on the SUV – as the “Crushed Cayenne”. SUVs dominate the roads, pollute the environment and cause terrible accidents. By showing its self-destruction in a frontal crash of two Porsche Cayennes we are commenting on the hermetic, hedonistic and militant ideology design of SUVs. We hope that it helps people consider these implications and to stop buying not only these huge SUVs, but cars in general.

Art is becoming a popular way for people to express their carfree ideas. Why do you think this is?

In the 1950’s and 1960’s people began making installations about the use of cars. This is a growing trend and we continue to use the same principle in our work. In general contemporary art can be everything: affirmative, critical or phenomenological. And actually, critical art positions like ours are a minority in the contemporary global art context. We consider our work as a personal form of resistance – against cars, neoliberalism, consumerism, etc.

Much of your artwork supports sustainable mobility and resource alternatives. What can you say about the inspiration for your work?

Many things inspire our works. For example, what we read in the newspaper, or by simply observing how people live. We are particularly concerned about issues regarding mobility in cities, which are often surrounded by power struggles, ideology and irrationality. By exploring these issues visually it helps our understanding of why we desire things and how resources are used, such as the materials used to make cars. We want to show with our art that it is possible to create a better world for everybody – using the simplest methods and even using junk material.

How do you feel your work has evolved over time?

It has changed a lot, but no project is ever the same, and the car is an ongoing project. For example, the wooden SUV has moved to many places. We began by displaying it in a parking space but nothing happened, so we decided to move it and change its appearance every time – most recently at the car cult exhibition in Prague, fully displayed on a column to show its dominance. Many of our critical artworks, such as the SUVs, have turned into a series, but they also lead onto explorating other transport alternatives and possibilities.

What has been your most memorable exhibition or work related to the carfree movement?

Every exhibition is memorable. On the subject of mobility, “Crushed Cayenne” was our first and biggest works. It has so much feeling and many can relate to this piece. Another important work was “Cars to Bicycles”, based on the transformation of a Peugeot 205 into two working bicycles during a 20-day event in Austria last year.

How do you rate the effectiveness of your pieces?

Unfortunately I can’t measure them! But there are small measurable results. For example, during a street exhibition in Berlin, we occupied a sign displaying “It’s the car that kills you”. It attracted a positive response of around 200 people – almost all came without a car. Generally, the reaction from car owners differs; either they totally ignore our pieces or, if they don’t, they see our work as insignificant, in comparison to the gigantic car ideology which most people believe in.

In a world so obsessed with the car, are you optimistic for the future of sustainable mobility?

In Germany there are so many signs aimed at encouraging people to buy new cars. I think as long as car advertising is so strong then it is difficult to change people’s attitudes and to try something new. But I think it is important to stay optimistic for the future.

What projects have you got lined up for the future?

We are now working on a project to transform a car into a bicycle and other useful products. We will work with design engineers to take a whole car apart and recycle 100% of its parts in to products that we will feature in a festival this summer in Hamburg, Germany.

by Jane Harding

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