Bumper Ballet is a new media art installation by DROPSTUFF MEDIA consisting of a refurbished bumper car track about 6 x 12 meters across. There are four bumper cars placed on the track, distinctively recognizable by their high gloss unicolor polyester layer and colored in the template of ‘De Stijl’, the famous Dutch modernist art movement of Piet Mondriaan and Gerrit Rietveld.
Any visitor can get a ticket, hop in and take one of the cars for a ride. Initially, these bumper cars function as normal as participants can drive the cars around the track. After a few minutes, the system takes over and both the steering wheel and the gas pedal lose their functionality. From that point on, the cars perform a dance. A bumper car ballet is created as the cars perform a preprogrammed routine of movements, moving in unison across the track. They continue to bump into each other and the borders of the track as they seemingly dance to the music and visuals of the ‘Dansende DAFjes‘: a 1970’s company video of the famous Dutch car company DAF.
Dancing & bumping: when autonomous technology takes over
Bumper Ballet playfully tackles the implications of current emerging autonomous technology. As participants become a direct subject to the cars, they experience first hand what it means to ‘lose control’ when the system takes over. Onlookers can spot the synchronicity in the movements of the car, blurring the lines between bumping and ballet.
The installation has been realized in close collaboration with Eindhoven Museum and the designers Peter de Man and Douwe Hibma. It was first presented during the Venice Biennale 2019, prompting visiting minister Van Engelshoven of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to hop in and take a ride. Afterwards, the installation travelled throughout The Netherlands. It was featured at the large Dutch funfair Park Hilaria and the Dutch art festival for children De Betovering
In 2020, Bumper Ballet was one of the installations nominated as a finalist for the prestigious American SXSW 2020 Art Program.
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