A friend sent this photo of Marcus Bowcott’s “Trans Am Totem,” which stands amid the traffic in Vancouver. As you see, five cars are stacked (four of them crushed) on top of a base made from a single tree trunk. What you cannot see is that the Cedar trunk is signed by a Native First Nations Carver who carved a Bear Paw & Claws symbol into the foot of the trunk.
Bowcott is reported to have said that “Trans Am Totem” is a sculptural response to the urban site where it was initially installed in 2015 during the Vancouver Biennale, and that it is as much a “celebration” of mobility and technology as it is a critique of “throwaway consumer culture.” I don’t get the celebration, especially given the Native American signature (which Bowcott arranged). For me the sculpture brings to mind—exclusively—Heathcote Williams’s 1991 chapbook Autogeddon, a narrative poem that is unvarnished in its appraisal of the automobile’s cost in human destruction. Here’s the way it begins:
The poem ends this way, however:
If you're conceived in a car as many are.
If you first fucked in a car as many have.
If you go to work in a car,
And if you derive most of your pleasure, food and sustenance via cars,
You're going to defend them to the death.