Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Now Blogging Back to the Futurama: From 1939 to 2009 and back

My good friend Jeremy Dean is now blogging his wild and crazy Back to the Futurama art project.

I have written about this project elsewhere (Jeremy Dean’s Back to the Futurama: A moving art project rolls from Hummers to horse carts). Now, as the car industry is putting on its annual show in Detroit, Jeremy would like to show the world another side of automotive reality. As a documentary filmmaker, Jeremy has spent a lot of time uncovering images of the past. When he encountered rare footage of Hoovercarts--horse drawn cars that people created during the Great Depression--he couldn't shake the image and its potent symbolism.

These things were called Hoovercarts as a play on Hoovercrats, people in America who had supported the election of Herbert Hoover, the President who presided over much of the Great Depression. Folks in Canada also made horse-drawn automobiles but called them Bennett Buggies after the Canadian PM of the time.

Why Back to the Futurama? The world of today is clearly very different from the world of the 1930s, but pulling a car with a horse is still a potent reminder that we have been pursuing and promoting a materialistic life-style that the world may not be able to sustain. Fossil-fuel dependence, global warming, and "the-end-of-oil," all stand in stark contrast to our seemingly endless infatuation with lavish vehicles that are more about status than transportation, an infatuation which Detroit has funded, over the decades, to the tune of many billions of dollars. Consider the 1939 New York World's Fair. For this event General Motors created a lavish 36,000 square foot facility which the company described as:
"a thought-provoking exhibit of the developments ahead of us, the greater and better world of tomorrow that we in America are building today, a vivid tribute to the American scheme of living."

The name of that exhibit, which was full of cars and models of multi-lane highways? The Futurama. (You can see clips from the original newsreel here.) Detroit spent many decades selling the world on a bright future full of luxury vehicles, with no apparent thought as to the environmental, economic, and political side-effects. So Jeremy has dubbed this project Back to the Futurama. You can see more of his models here.

And you can help Jeremy create an actual 21st Century Hoovercart, a full-size vehicle which Jeremy plans to drive through New York in March, 2010. That's right, a working horse-drawn cart based on a Hummer or Escalade. So heads up if you own one of these vehicles--Jeremy is accepting donations, and he doesn't mind if the motor is blown. Comment below to make contact or use the contact page on Jeremy's web site.

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