Car tuning is the process of modification of the performance or appearance of a vehicle.
It has become a way to personalize the characteristics of a vehicle to the owner‘s esthetical preferences. Cars may be altered to provide better fuel economy, produce more power, or to provide better handling. Exterior modifications include changing the aerodynamic characteristics of the vehicle via side skirts, front and rear bumpers, spoilers, splitters, air vents and light weight wheels.
The essence of modification of a tuner car is an attempt to extract the greatest possible performance—or the appearance of high performance—from the base motor vehicle through the addition, alteration or outright replacement of parts. Although this largely involves modifying the engine and management systems of the vehicle to increase the power output, additional changes are often required to allow the vehicle to handle this power. Although largely invisible from outside the vehicle, certain modifications such as low profile tires, altered suspension, and the addition of spoilers can change the overall appearance of the car.
In Japan the tuning practice is called bōsōzoku, (literally „violent running tribes“) it was first seen in the 1950s as the Japanese automobile industry expanded rapidly. The precursors of that practice enhance by groups of young people known as kaminari zoku („Thunder Tribe“). The particularity of shapes they would give to the cars made the visual appearance the main focus of the transformation. The most typical car designs involve large exhausts pointing high in the sky, aero kits that seem to expand the vehicles to twice the size and very colorful paint jobs. Not to mention disco lights and seriously enhanced suspension systems that must make drivers fall out of their seats.
The peculiar sculptural aspect of bōsōzoku’s cars is the starting point of tuning sculpture project. By using distinctive car parts and remodeling them into sculptural object, the work deals as a driving force to investigate ideas about performative sculpture and involvement of the viewer. As tuning cars enhances the notion of giving to the car the appearance of performance, tuning sculptures is a playful way of questioning the nature of a sculptural performative work, set within the social context of pop culture and suburban experiences.
The first two tuning sculptures, RED PRO and OCEAN created in Vienna in collaboration with a car tuning company, were built and conceived as experiments around some specific car component like a car door, a car light or a side mirror. The car elements were chosen for their ability to be activated by the viewer, for example with RED PRO, when the door opener is used, the light turns on. On the other hand, OCEAN is composed with a car side mirror, a remote control mechanism and a poster found hanging in the garage of the car tuning company. The remote control can be used by the viewer to activate the mechanism of the car mirror to impulse movement to the poster.
The fact that these two sculptures can be activated to release their performative power has a twist in the fact that their power is useless and act like a joke towards the concept of « tuning ». As we explained before, car tuning involves a modification of the basic structure of the object (the car), with the tuned sculptures it’s the more or less identified car parts that acts like modifiers to the shape given to the sculpture.
The sculptures are so called ”tuned” on at least two level, first of all it refer to the fact of using recognizable objects (car parts) that immediately gives an image or a context to the sculptural object. The second level is the fact that the sculpture can be activated. We could find a third level of the ‘tuned concept” in noticing that the way the components were put together and arranged so they work on a visual and a mechanical level implies the same ideas as tuning an instrument, balancing the material, creating a certain harmony.
We can also notice that in urban slang the expression « tuning » is the act of flirting, the action of seducing the other. We could say that the tuning sculptures operates in that way to, they are seductive, they are made to be touched, their color (like the kaminari Zoku car) are eye catching, in fact the title of the work refers to the name of the car painting applied to the sculptures.
Text: Arianne Foks