Koen Wastijn, an artist living in Brussels, recently sent me the above image, of his latest work, “The Traffic of Traffic,” a series of neon tubes conjoined in the familiar geometry of a highway interchange (also curiously evoking a cross).
Wastijn told me that first and foremost, the piece was a “tribute to the most beautiful Belgian sculpture,” the illuminated highways that some believe can be seen from space. The cross form was not accidental, he said, as the piece was a sort of “icon, almost religious… of a nearly dead phantasm, that of freedom through speed and the solitude of your ideal car in a landscape.” Have you ever seen, he asked, an ad for a car amidst a traffic jam? The answer is no, of course, and I’ve often wondered if there’s a secret compact by the car companies not to show traffic.
He mentioned the new “replacement” condition, where the “car belongs in the feeling of a traffic jam… a sort of mobile comfortable place, with a stereo better than at home, a GPS — although you often exactly know where you are and it steals your feeling of adventure.” With the first mobile phones, he noted, the king was one who could be reached anytime, anywhere; now the power may be held by those who have the luxury of not being contacted.
I received Wastijn’s images a few days before I saw the images (shown below) of the work by Yutaka Sone, depicting the freeways of Los Angeles (where Wastijn has been also doing work) in a post by my pal Phil Patton. The monumental, classicist vibe put me in mind of a passage by Reyner Banham in his canonical text Los Angeles: “Whether you regard them as crowns of thorns or chaplets of laurels, the freeways are what the tutelary deity of the City of Angels should wear upon her head instead of the mural crows sported by the goddesses of old.”
Either way, rendered in cool marble or cool neon, it’s a lot more edifying appreciating these interchanges as art than trying to navigate them on a Friday at 5:00 o’clock…