CARJACKED (After Maurizio Cattelan)

Coll.eo, 2012

“Objects look smaller in Pistoletto’s mirror”

Cars are not among Maurizio Cattelan’s objects of desire. After all, his favorite means of transportation is a bicycle. (“I like tricycles, too”, he adds, with a fake smile). In the fantasy world of CatteLand, automobiles are often tortured, defaced, and destroyed. Consider, for instance,  his contribution to the 2000 Art Expo in Hannover, Germany, Untitled (2000), a late-model Audi sedan wrapped around a tree. 

It should not come as a surprise then, that Cattelan’s BMW Art continues along the same lines of disrespectfulness, disruption, and playful subversion against another revered Teutonic brand. “I have always wanted to create a rhetorical car,“ Cattelan “il dispettoso” told Index Magazine’s Bob Nickas in 1999. “For a long time I had a car in mind. My god, I was so obsessed. It was at least two years. I said, I want to do a car, a beautiful car. Because it’s the end of the century. The last century it was the end of the horse, and now it’s the end of the mechanical century.”

More than a decade later, that rhetorical sculpture is finished. Introducing... the “CAR-TELAN”. For this project, Cattelan appropriated a 2011 BMW XM6 and covered its otherwise otherwise pristine roof top with pigeons’ excrements. It is playful reminder of Cattelan’s “Tourists” installation for the 1997 Venice Biennale, when he installed thousands of stuffed birds in the central pavillion. The artwork was subsequently expanded for the 2011 edition of the Biennale and rebranded as “The Others”.

“Originally, I wanted to create an invisible car,” Cattelan explains. “But then I realized it was not such an original idea. Benedict Radcliffe had already done it. Plus, I already had an ‘invisible’ artwork stolen from my car before, and doing another project on invisibility would have been an overkill” adds the Italian artist. “ And let’s not forget that Robert Rauschenberg wanted to design a transparent car for Renault, in the late Sixties... In short, I found myself in a cul-de-sac,“ Cattelan admits. “But then I had an epiphany. I was stuck in traffic and the car in front of me had two or three political bumper stickers. It was a complete wreck, an old Subaru. The stickers were covering scratches and damages... I thought about covering this expensive, exclusive ebony German car with the tackiest bumper stickers I could find...”

The project took off very quickly. “The bumper sticker is the poor’s man wisdom adds Cattelan. “It’s poetry for the traveling man. Bumper stickers are both aphorisms and epitaphs because cars are basically coffins on wheels. Once I saw a photograph of an accident that took place on November 8, 1967 somewhere in Florida... A five year old kid was ran over by a speeding driver whose bumper sticker proclaimed “Florida’s children deserve better”, which is both hysterical and tragic. That bumper sticker was a glorious failure, like my entire work. [laughs] Besides, the bumper sticker is the quintessentially American literary form. This is why Twitter is so successful: attention spans are growing shorter. What are tweets if not digital bumper stickers? 140 characters of platitudes, clichés, and trivialities traveling on the, howdidtheycalledit... ‘information highway’”.

Cattelan bumper stickers are subtle puns at the artist’s oeuvre: such slogans as “CHARLIE DON’T SURF”, “HIM IS MY CO-PILOT”, “TORNO SUBITO”, “LOVE SAVES LIVE”, “OBLOMOV RACING”, “PINOCCHIO IS DEAD” are allusions to his artworks and performances. The same applies to “84 ACCIDENTS 14 MUERTOS 2 LESIONADOS” which is based on “Untitled” (2001), a fake traffic sign that Cattelan installed next to a rural road in Andalusia, Spain for the Foundacion Montenmedio arte contemporaneo. To create the Car-telan, the artist from Padua merged video game-like high scores with the “real” consequences of car driving. The X6 is also adorned with the word “RAUSS”, which recalls the Nazi’s slogan Juden raus (“Jews get out”), the “sponsor” of A.C. Forniture Sud (1991), a fictitious soccer team composed entirely of North African immigrants who played in both outdoor competitions and in exhibition settings on an elongated foosball table. “ANOTHER FUCKING APPROPRIATION” is a self-referential joke: it alludes to Cattelan’s “Another Fucking Readymade” (1996), a series of stolen works in boxes from another exhibition. We could continue for pages, but expla ining a joke is a interesting as watching the paint dry on a wall. 

The question remains: Who is stealing what, exactly?

Works Cited

Nickas, Bob “Maurizio Cattelan”, Index Magazine, 1999. URL.

Smth, William S. “79 - UNTITLED, 2000”. in Nancy Spector (Ed.), Maurizio Cattelan: All, Milan: Skira. 2011. 224-225.

Image credit: Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 2000, Audi Car, Tree, variable size View of the Exhibition “Art Expo, 2000” in Hanover, Germany. Courtesy of Galerie Perrotin