The reasons to use found materials in art are as varied as the materials themselves. Whether you think of Duchamp and his infamous readymade urinal, Ai Wei Wei and his reconfigured stools, Tracy Emin’s disheveled unmade bed, Sarah Lucas’ strangely charming ordinary things, local artist Lane Shordee and his obsessively scavenged artworks, or any number of other artists, found materials come bearing their own political weight + cultural significance. This is what makes them so compelling.
Many of our artworks are built from found materials. As part of this approach, a certain amount of authenticity has become important to us. Using found materials draws understandings from the real world, allowing an artwork to interact with its context more completely. In that respect, it was important to us to built CARBON COPY from a real car – not a fiberglass replica or a foam-cut copy, but a car that someone, at some point, drove around from place to place. We wanted real metal, real tires, real headlights, real character, real history, contained in a mass-produced automobile. And we found it – the perfect used car!
Or, to be more precise, our fabrication team at F&D Scene Changes found the perfect used car on Kijiji Edmonton. The car is a 1988 Plymouth Caravelle, complete with all the trappings of a used automobile: stickers, dents, rust, scrapes, and typical signs of use. It was manufactured on a K-Car platform, a heavily reproduced frame type used by Chevrolet, GMC, and other companies to economize the manufacture of reliable cars. K-Cars are ubiquitous across North America, especially for older cars. As a found object, the Plymouth Caravelle is ideal to illustrate the commercial reproduction and consumptions of automobiles.
And yet, because this is a real car, there are also charmingly specific details about the vehicle. Considering its 30 years in use, the Caravelle was in great shape with relatively few kilometers on the odometer. The owner drove it down to Calgary from Sherwood Park, Edmonton – a lucky coincidence! When the sculpture is finished, the car will return to Edmonton in a very different configuration.
From all accounts, the owners were surprised to be delivering the vehicle to a fabricator. They were curious about the public sculpture and its final form – after all, CARBON COPY is strangely commemorative. Their automobile will live on for years, but in a completely altered state.
The next steps for the car are transformative: the car will be 3D-scanned in preparation for dramatic remodelling. Panels will be cut and shifted, details will be removed and saved while other details will be reconstituted from fiberglass and added back to the final sculpture. Colours will be changed and decals will be re-applied.
When CARBON COPY is complete, this Caravelle will look nothing like it currently does. And yet it is important that the car be authentic, found “in its natural habitat,” and then subverted. While it might not read immediately, objects carry the ghosts of their function with them. The found-ness of CARBON COPY will read through for someone, at some point, and it will make the sculpture much more potent.