Cars as art objects

Even if everyday life without a car is almost inconceivable, cars are not universally loved — they polarise opinion. For some they’re polluters of the environment and overly ostentatious status symbols, but for others they represent a miracle of design and symbol of freedom. The exhibition “Drive Drove Driven” in the Kommunale Galerie Berlin will be illuminating the many facets of the car as a cult object in contemporary photography until 8 April 2018. The works of 23 artists draw a picture of our automotive society between fascination and absurdity.

The car as home to Los Angelenos

The photos show elegant oldtimers, commercial vehicles and futuristic speedsters. These portrayals are complemented by wild street scenes and images that take as their subject the relationship between man and car. After Omaha in the US State of Nebraska and Innsbruck, Berlin is the third stage of the exhibition.

One of the artists represented is the German photographer Jens Liebchen. His pictures were shot in 2010 in the land of trucks and highways, directly in the car metropolis of Los Angeles. Only tourists and those on low incomes go places on foot here, everyone else glides through life in their car round the Hollywood dream factory. “For people there, it’s normal to set up home in their car”, says Liebchen. The time it takes to commute to work is used in many different ways, whether for breakfast or the morning shave.

Showing the town from the driver’s seat

Liebchen wants to use his photos to show Los Angeles from the perspective of its residents: from the driver’s seat. To do so, he drove around 3,000 kilometres through the town and hardly saw any pedestrians on the streets. For the photographer who lives in Berlin, this was a major change. “From my own European perspective, it’s crazy to take a car for a 500 metre journey in L.A. On the other hand, you also find a parking space everywhere because the whole town is designed for car-drivers.” But even the car-crazy “town of the angels” has to confront subjects such as environmental protection and the use of space. Liebchen intends to keep abreast of what mobility concepts catch on in future.

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