Airbag Architecture



Airbag Architecture

Airbag Architecture is a project that takes the event of the car crash as its starting point to investigate contemporary sacrificial happenings within Western culture. The project posits the notion that the spectacle of the car crash produces a necessary and functional sacrificial economy, one which trades on motion and sacrifices through the accident. It is understood and accepted that tens of thousands of people within Western Countries (and beyond) will die in travel accidents. As a culture we give up bodies for the advancement and daily pursuit of speed and progress.

8 ‘skins’ are produced using materials that would be found in an automobile interior – seatbelts, airbags and material used for seat upholstery. The shape of each ‘skin’ is an enlarged version of a centre panel of a car’s steering wheel that covers the airbag on the drivers-side. The ‘skins’ are produced as multi functional articles, created to be used as wrapping devices, carrying/delivering vehicles or as trophy like objects. In this sense, they are purposely ambiguous between the role of the 'functional' and the 'trophy'. As such they fulfil the criteria of what constitutes a sacro-religious article. Thus the articles (the ‘skins’) bespeak a ritual function within an ordered process and induce a reverence or respect when not being utilised and thus when on show.

An equation is sewn backwards into each airbag via a computer-driven sewing machine. Each equation represents a physical event within the crash sequence: a deceleration of the vehicle which causes a follow through trajectory of the body and the burning of sodium azide (otherwise known as 'Rocket fuel') to release a gas, which then inflates the bag, amongst others.

The equations are sanctified as language that is used to explain and rationalise the accident in terms of science, followed by simulation / reconstruction, and the promise of future technological enhancement to prevent it happening again. However, the equations have been sewn backwards and are thus inverted as a black humoured gesture pre-empting the suggestions of 'dark science'. The act of sewing the equations into the airbags also effectively sews the bags shut, the cotton joining both sides of the nylon bag so that it can no longer expand. Negating their function prompts the creation of a new role for them within the utilitarian narratives of the ‘skins.’

The airbags as a safety technology have their own demise or obsolescence scarred into them, their future trajectories becoming part of their structural formatting, the crash as an act of their undoing and stitching up at the same time. As objects, the ‘skins’ exist before the accident, in that they have the reversal of the accident sewn into them and function post accident through their suggestion as operating like carrying / wrapping items akin to bodybags / trophys.

The projection and reversal of temporal narratives proposes functional analogies to human sacrificial rituals which attempt to produce a better future for the social body based on previous times of balance or abundance. In this sense, the past is reinterpreted and transgression for the social body is attempted through the act of sacrifice. Airbag Architecture suggests that we live within transient structures, which also promise a better and faster future, knowing that we have to sacrifice people to get ‘there’. If this is the case then the crash or the accident can be navigated outside of a purely ‘disaster’ territory and rather as a deliberate act of collective substitution performed at the expense of the victim and absorbing all the internal tensions, feuds and rivalries pent up within a community.

Airbag Architecture exhibits at the following galleries –

2002   DiverseWorks (Houston, USA)
2001   Momenta Art (New York City, USA)
           Neutral Ground (Regina, Canada)
           Galerie Clark (Montréal, Canada)