John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
A car rides an asphalt wave in the city's newest structure.
Much like its mutant skyline ("Can of Ham," anyone?), London's public art is becoming increasingly surreal. There have been chicken feet poking out of sewer grates, two horses pulling a two horse-power car, a levitating building, and a death-metal band squeezed into a little box—and all this was in 2014.
Well, the city's arts scene is off to a promisingly ridiculous 2015, to judge from a new installation at the Southbank Centre called "Pick Yourself Up & Pull Yourself Together." A section of the pavement is ripped up and curling over like a cresting wave; hanging from its underside is an upturned car. If this were Looney Tunes, there'd be a driver inside staring into the camera and shrugging—seconds before gravity is reestablished and the auto plunges to earth.
The auteur of this illusion is Alex Chinneck, the same guy who made the aforementioned floating building and also that housing facade sliding into the street. The piece is a collaboration between the artist and Vauxhall Motors, which wanted publicity for its new Corsa hatchback. Arranging the pavement and hoisting the vehicle 15 feet into the air required a "team of structural engineers, steel benders, scenic artists, metal workers, carpenters, tarmac-layers and road-painters," writes the motor company.
And here's Chinneck's take on the installation:
I see sculpture as the physical reinterpretation of the material world around us and so by introducing fictional narratives into familiar scenarios, I try to make everyday situations as extraordinary as they can be. I choose to do this through illusions because I think there is something both optimistic and captivating about defying the realms of possibility.
With an effortlessly curling road, I hoped to transcend the material nature of tarmac and stone, giving these typically inflexible materials an apparent fluidity.
The piece will stand (hang?) until February 25, for any Londoners who want to peer in the windows to see if coins in the cup holders are similarly suspended.