Few things have had a greater impact on 20th Century life and culture than the motor car. In a hundred years or so it has metamorphosed from exotic plaything of the rich to indispensable adjunct to life in developed societies. Freedom machine, sex symbol, design and status icon, offensive weapon, agent of pollution, devourer of the earth's resources ' it is all of these and more. From the romance of James Dean, Princess Diana, Jackson Pollock, the list goes on ...beautiful machines on the edge of death, to the weekly visit to the supermarket, the car is omnipotent.
'The more you drive, the less intelligent you are' states one of the characters in Alex Cox's cult movie, Repo Man. Driving being seen here as a mindless act in which any intellect is lost when operating an unthinking, unfeeling machine. Maybe, this is the view many of us have from the outside, as a potential 'road-kill' victim. However, from the inside as passenger or driver we can become transported into a realm of freedom, the car becoming a vehicle for our aspirations. We can lose our selves inside what Ballard referred to as 'a huge metallised dream'. As such, cars become metaphors for otherness, for escape, for our own private space, for the way we imprint our fantasies on life. 'Like all epochal icons, the car does not mean one thing, but many things. In that sense, it is an 'empty sign'. It is a vacuum. We fill it with meaning', - as Allen Samuels states in 'Autopia.'
My most vivid early memories are of being driven, of lying on my back in the car, seeing a blur of trees, buildings, sky, a non-place in which to drift and dream. Later as a young teenager I would goad my father to drive faster and faster, loving the adrenaline rush that the cars speed induced. That thrill of compressing time and space as a vector of speed became a repository of theory for the likes of Baudrillard and Virillo. Out of this process it is not surprising the car is fetishised, and it is not difficult to see why artists love cars. They are sculptural objects. A drive in a car takes us on a visual journey, quite literally altering our perspective on life. The form they describe. The noise they make. The marks they leave. The car can evoke both nostalgia and the future.
Despite living in an age when the car has become demonised as polluter of the planet, I have to confess a love of driving - it is our dirty secret, as in the 21st Century it becomes a forbidden pleasure - gridlock permitting. With that in mind, 'Driven' is a group show that concentrates on the psychological hit that cars can deliver. Through the way they transport us into imagined worlds this exhibition aims to address something of this complex relationship.
The Driven artists are:
Sarah Baker, Helen Barff, Paul Caton, Ami Clarke, Leigh Clarke, Cedric Christie, Andrew Cross, Mikey Cuddihy, Robert Currie, Sarah Doyle, James R Ford, Adrian Galpin, Nigel Grimmer, Alexis Harding, David Hopkinson, Marq Kearey, John Kindness, Tim Knowles, David Leapman, Jennifer Merrell, Lee Maelzer, Dan McDermott, Leila Miller, Jessica Potter, Benedict Radcliffe, DJ Roberts, Amy Robins, Colin Smith, Sarah Sparkes, Axel Stockburger, Heidi Stokes, Ben Woodeson
This exhibition has been kindly supported by Citroen City and the Classic Car Club.
-- 'First Thursdays' - the gallery will be open on Thursday, 5 July, 6 - 9 pm, and Mikey Cuddihy will read her new story 'Dinner at the Drive In Movies' at 7.30 pm
-- 'Driven by Cars' - Friday, 27 July, 6 - 9 pm. Artist film night and talk, curated by Ricarda Vidal