Meritxell Mir: What are you trying to convey with La 600?
Aleksandra Mir: La 600 is my original car that I bought in Palermo, Sicily where I lived between 2005 and 2010. Like any car owner, I had a deeply personal relationship with mine and it was the one thing I could not get rid off when I left. At the same time, it wasn’t useful for me anywhere else so I decided to turn it into an artwork. I always greatly admired Gabriel Orozco's DS so took the formal cue from him, of splitting it and reassembling the remaining 2/3 into a sleeker model. But I didn't have his sophisticated approach to an admirable design. I have always reveled in trash, and in the end no matter what you do to it, a FIAT will never be a Citroën.
It was instantly clear that this very gesture of hapless copying and aspiration is my work. Aspiration is what this small FIAT is all about, the aspiration of the working classes to a better life, the aspiration of the ugly duckling to become a Swan. It is simply speaking a shitty car that wants to be an elegant car but also, self-consciously realizes the myth and idiocy of this very desire. It acquired all these fantastic scars through its very painful process of transformation, which are now also displayed as proud proof of lived experience.
From the pictures I see on your website, people seem to think the car is still functional. Is that part of the 'game' or the 'trick'?
No, it’s just the nature of the beast. Cutting a car in half, gutting it and putting it back together is a very complicated operation on the outside, but even more difficult on the inside. It was all pieced together in someone’s backyard and I didn’t have the resources to redesign a motor that would work. But it doesn’t matter. The piece is all about lacking resources and making the best out of it. My team and I had great fun photographing it in Rome. We went to 18 locations all around the city and the surrounding countryside. It was hauled around in a van and then pushed in place with bare manpower. Once in place, it just looks like a parked car. But we even made it roll in traffic on a downhill slope in one of the most intriguing parts of Rome, the EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma). The steering wheel still works, although in reverse direction.
Amazingly, we had no formal permits and in all of the places we went and the great amount of traffic police, carabinieri, special forces and military we encountered, nobody, nowhere took the slightest issue with us being there. Everyone just smiled and took photos. In Italy, everyone has a collective sentimental relationship to this car model. Everyone was charmed and identified instantly with what I had done to it. The Director of Macro told me how much it meant to him as a child when his parents first bought that car and they could go on holidays. The work prompts a lot of sentimental confessions.
Is this your most personal and sentimental piece?
Of one the most personal, general and definitely sentimental, yes.
What is the connection established between La 600 and St. Johanns-Vorstadt, the street where it will be on view?
This is the site the organized offered for the piece. I have not even seen it so trust it is a good location from the locals’ point of view.
Why is humor an essential part of your work?
It is just how I respond to trauma I suppose!
Art Parcours is partly about making art accessible to everyone and placing it in the middle of every day life. La 600 seems to match just perfectly with that concept. Do you think art is still too far from the general public?
No, I think it is a mutual and naturally adaptable relationship. I don’t think the Art and the Public needs special assistance to meet each other. They are always there for each other to the extent that they want to be at any point in time or place.
Are you coming to Art Basel? Are you still based in Italy?
Yes I will be there. I left Italy in 2010, I have been traveling since then and I am based in London for the moment.