Monday, July 14, 2008

Billy Carts, Soapbox Cars, and a general theory of vehicular imagination


Stumbling upon this street party in Berlin the other day, a cart competition was just underway. With kids jumping around, wheeling out there carts, a legacy of modified vehicles, custom-built cars, home-made cart constructions, and other appropriated wheeled objects seem to follow behind... While this particular competition was fused with children fantasies, other carts came to mind, such as Gordon Matta-Clark's Fresh Air project, where the artist wheeled around a set of oxygen tanks and offered fresh air to passers-by.

Gordon's cart circulates as a social vehicle, gaining attention through humor and performativity as to how oxygen is put on wheels, while the Berlin carts charm viewers with their imaginative flair. The cart as an object then seems to harness a general impulse toward mobility, fused with the power and poetics of appropriation and self-made platforms that promise movement. Other carts in turn carry the problematics of an uneven social reality, such as those wielded about by the homeless, or those built by favela communities in Brazil, that use the cart as means toward collecting and recycling.

The cart then pinpoints the specifics of certain situations, while sliding across others by granting the imagination a literal vehicle for pursuing fantasies of transport.