Welcome to Ellesmere Port Boogie Woogie!*
Ellesmere Port Boogie Woogie is a contemporary art experiment investigating the hidden lives of cars and car parks.
In July 2014, artist Carol Mancke explored the performative possibilities of Ellesmere Port car parks – filming from above using a camera suspended from balloons – and collecting individual stories about cars in Ellesmere Port. Please say hello if you see her!
And, if this piques your curiosity, perhaps you would be willing to participate in the experiment by allowing Carol to interview you in your car? If so, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Ellesmere Port Boogie Woogie is also part of artist Nayan Kulkarni’s research project that is developing a unique approach to public art in Ellesmere Port. For more about Nayan Kulkarni see http://www.nkprojects.co.uk.
Ellesmere Port strikes me as a ‘car town’. Distances are a bit too far for walking and trains are not very convenient. Buses are not bad, but it is so much easier to drive. The verdant public realm is designed for the enjoyment of drivers – generous green verges, beautifully landscaped roundabouts, public art scaled to be appreciated by drivers and spacious car parks. And, not only do automobiles make life much easier, the car manufacturing and petrochemical industries provide a significant amount of employment for the Ellesmere Port region.
Do you think cars are ruining cities and streets? Do they contribute to the dehumanisation of work (through mass production)? Does our reliance on cars drive the squandering of global resources and the conflicts that result? Does your car give you (like mine does me) a sense of freedom, a sense that you are your own person who can go wherever you like, whenever you like?
Have cars sheltered important moments in your life? I have experienced sadness, joy, violence, epiphany, rage, pain, intimacy, fear, thrill, difficult conversations, tentative liaisons, protected togetherness, exquisite aloneness and extreme danger in my cars. Statistics says that travelling by car is among the most dangerous thing most of us do, and yet I usually feel safe in my car. How about you?
Cars are objects of desire and love and the subject of millions of conversations. Do you identify with your car? Do you give it a name? Do you think of it as a ‘he’ or ‘she’?
Have you ever thought about how, although you need it for everyday life, most of the time your car is not in use? Instead, it rests, waiting, loved yet often ‘sleeping rough’ in a street or car park – taking up space. I think about how car parks take up large areas of our shared public space. And how these spaces designed for machines, constrain the ways we relate to each other, interrupt urban life, create heat islands, suppress wildlife and maybe disrupt eco systems.
I also think it is interesting that parked cars are private, The pocket of space each encloses belongs to someone, a person or family identifiable by remnants left in the car: maps, dashboard accessories, lost toys, food crumbs, fingerprints and DNA. Parked cars juxtapose the intimacy of private interior space, with the extreme publicness of the street and car park.
Cars have music systems, telephones, gps, lights, heating and cooling systems, etc. Do you ever use your car for things other than going from A to B? What would Ellesmere Port be like visually if there were no motor vehicles? Cars contribute to our visual environment in changing ways. They reflect sunlight and allow the surrounding scenery to slip over their slick surfaces as we move. Cars are colourful and they reflect us: showing the world and ourselves our innermost desires as well as our own real bodies – both distorted in their smoothly curved surfaces. What would Ellesmere Port be like without all those shiny metal shapes?
Read more about Carol’s research below.
Ellesmere Port Boogie Woogie is driven by my desire to explore two nagging hunches. One hunch is that the private space inside cars has great significance in many of our lives. The other is that car parks could become spaces for considering the kind of future we want.
Ellesmere Port Boogie Woogie is part of my artistic research into the capacity for contemporary art strategies operating in the public realm to affect their host communities. My work usually follows a two-part process. First, I find, define or create a setting that encourages or allows for an enhanced receptivity. I try to exploit a setting’s potential for imaginative use (think of a child finding a ways to play), which I call its ‘performative’ potential, to create a place that invites or allows visitors to ‘slow down’ in the midst of everyday life. I call this kind of place a ‘clearing.’ Then, I make an installation, intervention or performance that invites ‘viewers’ to engage physically and sometimes collaboratively within the artwork, thereby tempting them away from simply looking at something and towards actively colluding in its creation, with all the attendant risks and rewards.
Often this process generates new insights by revealing something that is latent or not often considered. The method also tests the capacity for physical action to produce internal revelation; the creative potential of hospitality and relations between the personal and the collective, the artistic and the social and positions on a continuum between critical distance and collusive engagement. For more about my work and me, please see http://www.machinaloci.com.