There is hardly any car owner who does not know them – the small cards, stuck to the windscreens of parked cars inviting the owners to sell them. These cards promise a purchase of cars for cash, with or without defects, with or without “Pickerl” (NCT/adhesive lable). They are handwritten or designed with simple tools, using word on the computer, come with or without pictures, in different color schemes, with a telephone number and/or email address.
The articulation of this individual aesthetic leads to our approach of understanding “autocards” not only as mere objects but rather as bearers of a discourse investigated through artistic research. Autocards as objects provide a cross section of artistic production that acts involuntarily and are hence more than a mere medial communication.
Thus, few deviations from repetition show adaptation and adjustment as well as possible connections and ruptures within the field. Here, one could mention the names and email addresses that point to a very international field but also visual motives (such as??) that are of regular use.
The field is constituted by people with or without a background of migration who try to enter a trade traditionally dominated by second hand car dealers with fixed addresses, showrooms and/or vehicle fleets. Consequently, the autocard practice has the potential to cause envy in more established competitors, but, as an economic niche, it also opens up the possibility for its actors to be self-employed and thus provides a perspective of economic and social upward mobility.
Things: Push-Factors for societal change
Migration alters society – migrants alter society. But also things alter society by influencing, re-arranging and/or opening up (new) scopes and options for the actor as well as new fields of economic activity. When people migrate, then so do things, ideas, worldviews and interpretations of the notion of a better life.
Autocards can be read as references to a dimension of globalization, which indeed (still) passes below the radar of journalistic, scientific or public mainstreaming. Symbolically, however, they act as witnesses of global and meaningful connections. Not only the people constitute this field of trade but so do their practices of buying and reselling second hand cars or their respective spare parts. The purchased cars find their way into different places in this world where they are re-used or recycled in some way or another. Thus, alongside actors and their activities in the field, things (in our case: the autocards and used cars) and attached ideas and meanings equally gain importance. Especially meanings and related ideas of a good life or of status, prestige, safety, and togetherness often function as templates for the interpretation or guidance of action. Therefore, autocards and the used cars that are attached to them enqueue in that group of things that together composes the general field of 2nd Hand Economy.
The project car|go|graphy is located in this multidimensional field and continues the current work of its initiators (the mitumBack collective). With the first project „mitumBack – reverse engineering globalisation“, we concentrated on the global dimensions of trade in 2nd hand clothes. Just as used cars, these cloths are also things that are first used and then “re-used” in a different context, a journey,whereby they often travel far from their place of production to their re(interpretation) and further consumption. Thus, questions about consumer behavior and waste disposal in a world of contradictory poles of overproduction and scarcity posed on behalf of car|go|graphy stand in direct continuity with „mitumBack – reverse engineering globalisation“ and, together, present their accumulated knowledge to a wider audience.
Art and qualitative globalisation research
At the beginning of the 21st century, globalisation is an often used but still no less fuzzy and diffused term. By breaking down the field of the autcards alongside the three dimensions of people, things and ideas, car|go|graphy aims at rendering the fabric of meaning more tangible and proximate. Referring to cultural anthropologist Ulf Hannerz we pose ask, “Who are the globalizers?”, a question, which shall be answered by means of artistic and material culture research as well as in artistic practice.
The potential of a qualitative approach to the field enables the project not only to “collect data”, but also to place it with a wider socio-cultural framework. We understand people not as mere providers of data, but as those actors who are most familiar with the field. In the beginning we will start by entering the field through qualitative interviews and an explorative approach, in order to carry out, in yet another step, a double transfer of knowledge – the knowledge of the actors themselves as well as that, which the staff members of the project could acquire through artistic practice.