CARJACKED (After Barbara Kruger)

Coll.eo, 2012

It should not come as surprise that women are blatantly underrepresented in the BMW Art Cars initiative. After all, cars are boys toys, embodiment of male fantasies of power, control, and domination. Of the seventeen artists that participated in the BMW Art Cars initiative, only two are women: Esther Mahlangu (Zaire, 1991) and Jenny Holtzer (United States, 1999). Quite ironic, considering that, in the vernacular, the BMW acronym is often explained as “Bring Me Women”, “Brings Me Women”, “Beer, Motorcycles, Women”, and “Beats Most Women”.  

The digital series of BMW Art Cars finally welcomes Barbara Kruger. For this project, the American artist, who studied with Diane Arbus at Parson’s School of Design and worked at Condé Nast Publication for several years as a graphic designer, art director, and picture editor, has radically transformed an icon of masculinity: a 1988 BMW M5 car. Kruger explicitly addresses the ideologies that drive - no pun intended - car culture. She enhanced the chassis of this Teutonic mechanical beast with her trademark white letters against white backgrounds, but also with white letters against black backgrounds. Her text questions the viewer/driver about consumerism, individual desire and gender role, status and privilege, political issues and power.

Kruger’s work has previously appeared on buses and bus stop billboards, but never on cars. The provocative anti-slogans featured on the body of this BMW include well known mantras (“Don’t Be A Jerk”) but also powerful new declarations/detonations, such as “DEATH DRIVE”, “CAPITAL”, “ROAD RAGE”, “DO NOT WALK”, “DO NOT WALK”, “CRAVE IT BUY IT CRASH IT”, “I DESERVE THIS”, “I AM WORTH IT”, BLIND SPOT”, “WMD”, “BUILD MORE ROADS” and “YOU ARE STILL CANNED MEAT”. Kruger’s priceless sense of humor is evident in such puns as “TEXT AND DRIVE”, “BIMMER/BUMMER” and “S/PEAK OIL”.

The font style used for this BMW Art Car is modeled after Kruger’s most recent work, including “Between Being Born and Dying”, the 2009 show that she presented at Lever House Art Collection in New York; the large scale installations at the Whitney Museum in the Fall of 2010, and her 2011 “Past/Present/Future” show at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Image credit:  Barbara Kruger, “Past/Present/Future”, installation view, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.  Image courtesy of Designboom.