Sunday, March 21, 2010

A statement of action

Back To The Futurama Debut from jeremy dean on Vimeo.

I first learned of the Hoover Cart while making a documentary film in Tarboro, North Carolina. The film was an oral history take on the evolution of this small agricultural town through the generations. I was fascinated by the Hoover Cart story and the image I saw in my mind of the re-imagined vehicle, this ultimate coping mechanism, and it seemed to me then, as it does now, a monument to the absurd, as only something utilitarian done in prolonged crisis can be. I sat with that image in my mind for years, and would revisit it when a particularly blaring example of American overindulgence confronted my senses. I began to wonder what we would do with all this stuff if it became, through crisis, impossible to use as originally intended. I had grand images of Hoovervilles made out of plasma TV’s, like the old depression shanties that used ads from the daily newspaper to cover holes in the wall against the cold, resulting in destitute people being surrounded by marketing images of things never to be afforded.

I began to contemplate the reality of the world we have built for ourselves grinding to a halt and one thing became clear; everything in our modern world depends on energy. In our strive for American individualism and independence, we have quietly cut all ties with the land, favoring the convenience of cheap gadgetry and in the process becoming blindly dependent on energy, mostly oil, and most of that foreign. One has to look no further than the blackout of 2005 that crippled New York City and the surrounding area to see how impossible American life would be without energy, and cheap energy at that.
In thinking about our society it is clear that we have collectively bought in to the American idea of “Bigger is better.” This thinking, fed by prosperous times and easily available credit, has given us an explosion of consumer goods, the Mc Mansion, corporations too big to fail, and giant gas guzzling SUVs. We owe much of our recent prosperity to a relatively stable period in history and the availability of cheap oil.

A lot has been made of our dependence on oil and there has been much speculation about how much oil is left on the planet. But one thing is sure, we (US) consume vastly more resources than the rest of the world, and when the developing world catches up with us (China, India etc.) as they are working very hard to do, global demand will outpace supply, which will cause the price of oil to skyrocket; oil dependent economies (like ours) will collapse, and there will be an explosion of violence as we all fight for resources (to say nothing of the disastrous effects on the environment).

All of this inevitably brings us back to the automobile and though I am not necessarily obsessed with cars or car culture, I am obsessed the idea of the American Dream. It is impossible to talk about one without the other as they are historically and inextricably linked. The promise of America is summed up nicely by this gentleman who lived through the depression.

“I am 72 years old and been thinking some lately about things that have happened during that span. I see Hoover mentioned a lot in recent weeks but I'll bet most of you don't recall the term "Hoover Cart". It was around for some time but I remember it being used most frequently during the Truman/Dewey campaign. Looks like we will need those "carts" again to carry the few bits we have left after this Republican administration finishes with us.

"Raising something to eat superseded social concerns in my cashless 1930s boyhood. Along the dirt road that ran in front of our Georgia farmhouse, the farmer rode to town on Saturday on a homemade seat mounted on the rear axle and wheels of a former T-model Ford drawn by a bony mule. The vehicle was known as a Hoover Cart in honor of the president who promised two cars in every garage and gave us the Great Depression.”

As discussed in earlier posts, the excess of the roaring 20's created modern consumerism, consumer credit and the contemporary version of the America dream, but resulted in the Great Depression. Hoover Carts were created by desperate people who could not afford fuel for their newly financed cars, so they cut them in half, attached poles to the front and hooked them up to a horse.

As the country began to emerge from the Depression politicians and corporations were obsessed with making grandiose predictions about the future. Fashion, Art and Architecture of this era took on a futuristic look, as evidence by Art Deco and the accompanying Streamline Modern movement that took new technology in aerodynamics and ballistics as a design principle to strip down and streamline design, giving the look of sleek futuristic speed. Automobile manufacturers embraced this look wholeheartedly. At the 1939 World's Fair in New York City General Motors unveiled an exhibit entitled "The Futurama" which was a large scale diorama depicting their vision of the future world we would all inhabit and how the automobile would make it possible. In this “brighter and better world of tomorrow” (the imagined future world of 1960) the viewer was confronted with a self-described monument to “the American scheme of living.” “Come,” the omniscient voice of the unseen announcer invites, “Let’s journey into the future…what will we see.”

For a time after WWII the future was very bright for GM and most of America (if you were white) and indeed the automobile made this country. The United States possessed one of the only functioning post war economies and instead of producing military goods, factories began cranking out a plethora of consumer products, including cars, to an eager American consumer. Massive government investment in the highway interstate system in the 50’s and 60’s (which was basically the largest subsidy ever handed out to business) created suburbia, caused white flight resulting in large inner city ghettos and led to the very American Dream of a two car family, the house, picket fence, and dog named Spot. At one point the 1950's, 1 in 7 jobs were directly related to the auto industry and GM alone represented 10% of the national economy.

Adding to its “Planed Obsolescence” strategy, that bit of marketing genius that made the previous years model dreadfully outdated, GM now added the “Ladder of Success.” This new marketing strategy effectively put the consumer in a class system according to wealth and social status by the corresponding GM model they could afford – Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, or Cadillac. In a wordless exchange everyone now knows where everyone else stands, and if one wants to appear to rise socially, simply buy the more expensive, latest brand. With these two marketing ideas, GM was, as Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times put it: "able to weld an existential link between who we are and what we drive, and put the American consumer on the acquisitive treadmill they are panting on yet today.”

At this historical time, writes Neil, “GM was more than just the world's largest and most admired corporation; it was the final vindication of the American Way, the perfected and even divinely inspired example of democratic capitalism that stood opposed to the airless atheism and nullity of the Soviet system.”

The Golden Age of America to be sure.

So it was no small moment when in 1953 GM President Charles Wilson was tapped to be secretary of defense (It would be Ford’s CEO Robert McNamera next). In his confirmation hearing before the Senate, Wilson was asked if he thought there might be a conflict of interest. His response made history: “I have always felt that what was good for GM is good for the nation and vice versa.” It was as if, with this one statement, the American corporation and the federal government were once and for all inseparable. (Now the argument can be made that what is good for Goldman Sachs is good for America.) Throughout the 50’s and 60’s the slogan was repeated with pride, "As General Motors goes, so goes America.”

Certainly a company that could achieve all this would last forever, and so would the country that made it all possible…right?

Earlier last year (2009) in the midst of the worst financial disaster to hit this country since the Great Depression, General Motors filed for bankruptcy. In February of 2010, GM announced the end of the ultimate symbol of American dominance, the HUMMER. The irony is that in the early 2000’s GM spent millions in developing the EV1, a fully functional electric car, but killed the program to make room for the HUMMER. And now not even the Chinese want the beleaguered brand. GM’s problems, however, are not unique and in fact are the same problems facing the nation as a whole at this precarious time.

“This is the lesson of GM's bankruptcy, and it has little to do with market share and miles per gallon. It's a rebuff of the notion of exceptionalism. Any organization that fails to sufficiently safeguard its means of self-correction and reform, that forsakes long-term investment for short-term gain, that piles up debt year after year, will eventually fail, no matter how grand its history or noble its purpose. If you don't feel the tingle of national mortality in all this, you're not paying attention.” Dan Neil


For me the symbol that best personifies the arrogant, unsustainable, indulgence of the last era and the inevitable downfall, is the HUMMER H2. This military vehicle turned 9 MPG grocery getter has been called “An indictment of the American psyche on wheels,” and is clearly consumerism at its peak. By choosing the HUMMER as a symbol to deconstruct, it speaks to the broader culture that bought into this ideology, resulting in the largest financial collapse since the Great Depression and an impending environmental catastrophe.

I believe that the power of this work lays within the evisceration of the object itself and all that it represents. It was therefore very important to me to acquire, at market price, a working automobile in the best condition possible. To cut any corners on this point was to me, completely unacceptable. Adding meaning and back story, I bought the car from a dealer who had just bought it at an auction for bank owned, repossessed vehicles, a further monument to the times. Like my car cutting forefathers I too had to embrace the absurd if I was to make any sense out of the current madness.

I am very interested in work that deals with contradiction, and irony. Like a film director showing the brutal violence of war to make a statement about the horrors of war, I had to embrace excess in the creation of this object to reflect back its ultimate insanity. I very much love this tension, between the beautiful and the dark, between physical attraction and intellectual revulsion, the ultimate guilty pleasure. Optimism is present but checked by the reality of human nature.

My work exits in a continuum of time. It is from the future, but is rooted in the present and connects the past. Taking the logic of the past and putting it in the context of our current economic and environmental disaster, I am making my own satirical prediction of the future- Unless we come up with alternative fuel sources and rethink our reliance on a hyper-inflated, consumption-based oil economy; we may be left with no other options than to hook our cars up to horses.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Central Park

Pulse was amazing, lots of cool stuff to see and the Pulse organizers could not have been better.

The morning after Pulse we pulled off our sneak art attack in Central Park.

Here are some of the spoils of our Central Park victory.


Needless to say we turned a few heads, drew a crowd, got kicked out of the Park, and made a ton of New Yorkers smile... it was a good time!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pulse NYC

After a few days of horrible weather and two trucks breaking down, the futurama finally made it to PULSE Contemporary Art Fair in New York City! We had to pass up (for the moment) our tour through Central Park, but have rescheduled for after the art show. So stay tuned.

Here is how the booth at PULSE is looking.

And in advance of the show we got some great press

The Sunday edition of the New York Times

And the Sunday edition of the St. Petersburg Times

If you are in NYC come by the show!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Futurama is almost here

Ok, it has been almost a month since the last update, but I am very happy to show you the almost completed Futurama Cart!

Four more days left to finish it before it heads to NYC for it's debut. Many thanks to all involved! A very special thanks to Mitch for hooking up Wheels and Tires, provided by WAC ( )

And now let me introduce you to Duke and Diesel who will be pulling the Futurama in NYC.

And just in case you were wondering... the Cart weighs very little. In fact I can stand in front of it and pull it with one hand, so Duke & Diesel will have no problem pulling this around for a few minutes. Remember the point of the Futurama is not to suggest that we all return to using horses as beasts of burden, but rather to point out the ultimate unsustainability of our current lifestyle.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The "HUMMER hating Artist"

Check out the link to this article about the ongoing HUMMER conversion, but more importantly, check out the responses at the bottom. This makes it all the more important to do this work, because many people still think a car that gets 9 miles to the gallon is a good idea.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


There comes a point in art and life when you have to take a risk and put it all on the line for what you believe in, so we bought a Hummer H2 and destroyed it the same day, for the sake of art.

Below is how the last 36 hours has gone.

After a frantic search to find a HUMMER at a good price, I finally located one in Orlando (of course, because they really need huge four wheel drive trucks in Orlando). Since these things are still so desirable, several other people were also interested and were on their way to check it out, including a person who was flying in from New York. So it was basically a race to see who would get there first. We made the two hour drive in record time, and got the vehicle.

Though I have been obsessing about this project for almost a year, I had never actually been in a HUMMER H2, until I bought one, and let me tell you all the stereotypes about them are true. They truly are huge, gas, guzzling tanks…

I made the drive back to Slicks Garage in Palmetto, and right away Slick was ready to get to work. He was like a kid with a new toy… that he wanted to take apart.

So we all basically work for about 36 hours and below is the result. There is no turning back now, we truly are going back to the Futurama….

the most amazing people ever! Slick and his crew make it happen.

There is no way to express how hard working and committed everyone at Slicks Garage is. They are truly some of the best people I have ever worked with and none of this would be possible without them!

Thanks Slick!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Slicks Garage

We have partnered with Slicks Garage to create... The Futurama!

Slick and Jane are by far some of the nicest people I have ever met. I walked in to their shop the other day, told them what I wanted to do and they instantly offered their shop and expertise to help make it happen under our crazy deadline of having this up to NYC for the Armory Show.

As Jane is fond of saying..." It is so crazy, that it is right up our ally"

Next stop... HUMMER

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cool hunting

The finder and broadcaster of all things cool, Cool Hunting writes a great review about the Futurama at art Basel!

Check it out:

the Futurama at Art Basel

The idea of the futurama was unveiled at SCOPE during Art Basel Miami 2009. Art Basel was probably one of the craziest experiences of my life... total art overload! From the good the bad and the bazar, Basel had more work that any one person could possibly see in three days, and believe me, we tried!

Here are some photos and a video of the Futurama at SCOPE.

The two spinning cars play video on a tiny screen inside the car, and the play audio on speakers wired into the car.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

You're going to what?

Yes that's right, I'm going to take a real HUMMER H2 or Cadillac Escalade, cut it in half and turn it into a horse cart.

Why you might ask?

Well, I will tell you...

I have always been interested in exploring contemporary issues by deconstructing and re-contextualizing iconic symbols to gain perspective and understanding about the world in which we live. This has been even more important to me in the current state of global economic, environmental, and security instability. This project uses an American symbols of power and status to questions our future by looking at a past response to excess and subsequent collapse.

The excess of the roaring 20’s were punctuated by Ford’s inexpensive Model T making it possible for virtually everyone to own a car. Realizing that at some point everyone who could afford a car would have one, General Motors (GM) introduced “planned obsolescence” by annually changing its models, allowing for the extravagance of regular new cars and inventing consumerism as we know it. GM also began extending credit through the GM Acceptance Corp at a rate of 30% interest. This occurred at a globally unstable time, when the debate over bank regulation and American consumerism raged. Americans responded to the advertising doctrine of 1926 saying, “Every free-born American has a right to name his own necessities” and the list of necessities grew.

Hmmm.... sounds familiar.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, leading to the Great Depression, indebted Americans defaulted on their loans worsening the depression and found themselves unable to pay for basic goods including gasoline, so their cars sat idle. The solution in the rural south became to cut the car in half, attach poles to the front and hitch it to a horse. The resulting contraption became known as a Hoover Cart after President Hoover who was blamed for the depression.

Soon the Hoover Cart took off and made its way as far north as Canada (where they where called Bennett Buggies after the Prime-minister). Throughout the 1930's the Hoover Cart became a symbol for may of the pain the Great Depression caused and for others, as a political symbol for change. Parades and rodeos where organized throughout the country, and Presidential candidates referenced them in speeches. but more on all that later.

As the country began to emerge from the Depression Americans were obsessed with making grandiose predictions about the future. At the 1939 World's Fair in NYC GM unveiled their exhibit entitled "The Futurama" which was a large scale model of their vision of the future world we would all inhabit and how the automobile would make it all possible. And in a way, they were right. After WWII the automobile made this country. Massive government investment in the highway interstate system (which was basically the largest subsidy ever handed out to business) created suburbia, and led to the very American Dream of a two car family, the house, picket fence, dog named Spot. At one point the 1950's 1 in 7 jobs were directly related to the auto industry. AAAAhhhh the golden age of America. In 1953 the slogan "As General Motors goes, so goes America" was said with pride.

We have had our ups and downs since then but something happened in the early part of the 21st century as Americans again went on a consumption rampage speculating on housing with the assistance of easy credit. At this time of record financial gains, the auto industry began producing ever extravagant cars and SUVs. These huge American gas guzzlers became a status symbol in society leading to increased demand for oil and fuel prices soared.

So with our very American idea of Manifest Destiny, we meddle in any country that has oil and send our men and women into harms way so that we can continue consuming almost 80% of the worlds resources. But how long can that last?

As the current economic crisis has unfolded, GM, Ford and Chrysler have run their companies into the ground by producing these cars, yet they requested billions of taxpayer dollars in bailouts. When GM rolled out its new 2009 line up of cars, it still includes the HUMMER at 9 MPG and the Cadillac Escalade at 12 MPG. HUMMER has since been sold to the Chinese (no small irony there) and GM is in bankruptcy. "As GM goes, so goes America"

But it is not entirely their fault, they were after all giving us what we wanted.

Taking the logic of the past and putting it in the context of our current economic and environmental disaster, I am making my own satirical prediction of the future- Unless we come up with alternative fuel sources and rethink our reliance on a hyper inflated consumption based economy; we may be left with no other options than to hook our cars up to a horse.
As a symbol of this I am going to take either a Cadillac Escalade or HUMMER H2, which have become a monument to America’s consumption, greed and arrogance, and convert it to a horse cart. The cart will maintain all its former glitz and glamour: chrome, rims, GPS, working sound system DVD player, and TV screens, but will be pulled by a horse.

So my friends come with me on the ride of a life time as we go BACK TO THE FUTURAMA!

BACK TO THE FUTURAMA from jeremy dean on Vimeo.