While their work will be on view throughout the exhibition, the artists themselves will return to the racetrack for a race December 3rd. The races are open to the public every Sunday, through January 7th, and the car kits cost $20, with no extra cost for embellishments, which include feathers, beads, and other delightful ephemera. office met with Cecilia Dean and James Kaliardos, the founders of VISIONAIRE, to talk about their latest gift to the public.
So how did you guys come to think of this in terms of an art perspective?
JK We invited a bunch of different artists to curate cars and it all started with Tom Sachs.
CD Actually he’s the reason we know about this, so we were talking to Tom. I’ve known Tom for like, decades, and he’s been to a few installations and events here, and we were talking about doing something here at Cadillac House, and he was like, “Oh my God, you have to do something on this Tamiya 4WD racing phenomenon”. I think he’d just been in Japan and they have like entire bars dedicated to it, they have huge competitions.
JK People go nuts.
Are any of the artists here right now?
CD No but we’re doing an artists’ reception on Sunday, December 3rd, Tom will be here and whatever artists are in town will come by, and we’ll take their artist cars out of the display cases and they can race their own cars. I feel like a lot of them aren’t race-able.
JK Yeah, being artists they took it to a whole new level - beyond most of our imaginations. When the cars starting coming in we were like, whoa.
CD We thought they would do some doodles on the cars and they came back with these like, incredible masterpieces.
JK They’re very sculptural, they really took it off the frame of the car and created their own sculptures and silhouettes.
What is the artistic message here?
CD Right, so traditionally this community and phenomenon is about speed: it’s about modifying your car to go as fast as possible. The VISIONAIRE take on it is that it’s also about creativity, so we’re going to supply you with all the tools to make your car but we’re also supplying you with all sorts of embellishments to decorate the car so you can get really creative visually, it’s not just about speed it’s about self-expression too, which is not typical in the subculture.
Did you give the artists a prompt at all, or you just gave them a car and said ‘have at it?’
JK Yeah, we just gave them a car. Some people, like Marilyn Minter, used it as a statement for female empowerment. Some people took it into childhood fantasy, some of the cars are truly a reflection of the artist’s own art, whatever they’re working on at that moment - it was really broad. And that’s what art does. That’s why we wanted this creative building while the racing is happening too, so the space can function in many ways - you can come in here and get a coffee, lounge and do some work, but if you have time you can come in here and be creative.
So what is this space, exactly?
CD So Cadillac moved they’re headquarters from Detroit to New York in June 2016, very recently, and they decided to take over this space and it’s a bit like a gift to the community, it’s like a WeWork but there’s no subscription, it’s free and open to the public. There’s a Joe’s Coffee, you can log into their wifi and have meetings here, you can bring your lunch.
JK They get about 500 people a day, it’s really very popular. And we’re in that area between Soho, Tribeca, the Village.
CD So they approached us to program their exhibition space and we said we wanted to do stuff that’s participatory, immersive, fun.
JK Yeah we didn’t want to just hang stuff on a wall.
If cars are iconic of something or somewhere, what or where are they iconic of?
CD I feel like you’re a car person having grown up in Detroit.
JK Yeah I grew up in Detroit. I taught Cecilia how to drive, actually, in New York City, going on the West Side Highway with a fresh, new, young driver was a little scary. But she did it. You know it’s so funny because we just launched one of our editions which is a limited edition box set of photographs, a publication with Steven Klein, the photographer, who did a bunch of fetish pictures, and one of the most famous ones from that series is a woman’s heels scratching the hood of a car. And we were like, it’s so interesting because the woman and the heels represent this femininity and the car really does represent this masculine symbol. So I feel like it’s in our imagination that the car represents a male… toy. It’s like a male toy just an adult toy.
I was interested in how cars are often referred to as “she,” like ships - have you ever thought about that?
CD But it is a guy thing though, like the whole culture of cars is a guy thing - it makes sense that they’re driving a female because they don’t want to be driving a male.
JK We definitely asked female artists to come into this because of course it’s for both and we’re hoping young girls come into this world too, and there is a balance of males and females who love this kind of racing.
CD Yeah we were really trying to talk to the “maker” community, like the future engineers of the world, and it was funny because in Japan it’s actually very 50/50 female-to-male ratio of who engages in this activity, whereas here I feel like it’s sort of just a little more male. We want to bring all the females here.
This is a fun question: have you ever named a car you owned?
Both I’ve never owned a car.