Jens Kull: Still (2006) – Mexico’s Symbolic Volkswagen Beetle on a Race Through the Capital

Two „screens“, framed in the style of a Super 8mm film projection show a composition of over five hundred vochos (Volkswagen Beetles). Each Beetle is photographed in its natural habitat in Mexico City and then digitally remastered to fit the size and position. The collection is looped at a rate of 10 photographs per second. And the result is a journey through Mexico City revolving around its most characteristic automobile as a unifying symbolic centre.

Image courtesy of Jens Kull. All rights reserved.
Image courtesy of Jens Kull. All rights reserved.

Upon arriving in Mexico City, the beetle is a visual magnet. Wherever you happen to be in the supermetropolis, there is hardly a place and/or instant where no vocho is in sight, whatever the form it takes may be like and whatever condition it’s in. The car figures as a unifying momentum and becomes a ubiquitous symbol. Vochos where still produced in Mexico when production in Germany, its country of origin, had long stopped. The vocho can thus also be seen as a flashback of imperialistic history: a product of Europe imported to the colony which is preserved there while in its country of origin, history has moved on and the production has halted.

The vocho is, apart from the sheer number of its presence in Mexico City, also a visual stimulus. It is its perfect shape which appeals to the eye, as its profile fits exactly in a Golden Ellipse, an ellipse built on a Golden Ratio.

Jens Kull’s Still is Mexico City in the literal nutshell. Within the seconds of the loop, over 500 vochos are presented at a speed which makes focussing on one of the frames impossible. It is the shape, then, which the eye has to concentrate on, which stays the same, yet the colour, the state, the background flickers faster than the eye can follow. The viewer lapses into staring as the frames rush by. It is, as if the whole of the metropolis, with its symbolic means of transport in the center, is burnt into the viewer’s mind within seconds.

All vocho photographs have been taken and collected over a long period of time and in all parts of Mexico City. By placing the images in this kind of sequence, space and time are annihilated and become a virtual playground. Additionally the sequence of changing settings and backgrounds creates a kinetic experience: as a viewer, you can see „the“ vocho move forward. This is where the spacial movement, which is ruled out by the „still“ character of the photographs, is re-created. As the composition consists of two screens with different images, Jens Kull creates a kind of race between the two vochos. Although there are hundreds of vochos in places miles apart, Still creates the illusion of two vochos driving behind each other.

>> Have a look at the video on jenskull.com

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