GAZon NEXT will become part of the display of Austrian Pavilion at one of the most famous international exhibitions of contemporary art – la Biennale di Venezia. Engineers of Gorky Automobile Plant (Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia) embodied the daring brainchild of Austrian artist Erwin Wurm by supporting the artist with engineering and the actual production of the art installation for Venice Biennale 2017.
GAZon NEXT is a new-generation GAZ brand vehicle, Russian market's bestseller in the segment of medium-duty trucks. As part of the concept of Erwin Wurm – an artist, who blurs the boundary between sculpture and performance, transmutes perception of volume and material, space and functionality – the Russian truck acquired an unexpected application. The automobile became a watch tower. Its climbers will be able to take part in an interactive installation by following artist's instruction: "Stand still and look at the Mediterranean Sea horizon".
The truck is positioned vertically standing on its cab with a step ladder built into its body along which visitors can climb to the observation platform at the top. The 3.12 square meters platform comfortably accommodates 10-12 people. Overall height of the structure is 9.7 meters. The weight, including additional elements – stiffeners, stair flights and enclosures – is almost 12 tons. It took approximately half a year to build the installation from scratch to delivery to Erwin Wurm's studio.
GAZ engineers successfully accomplished a nothing but trivial engineering task, integrating a stairway and observation platform in the vehicle structure while keeping intact the truck's exterior appearance. Another difficult task was to put the vehicle on its front bumper without using any side rigging wires. All that required a search for non-standard bearing structure configuration, optimized overall layout solution and appropriate strength calculations.
The installation was designed taking into consideration all the peculiarities of Venice's climate, characterized by strong winds and high humidity. Strength design was made by GAZ specialists jointly with Austrian architectural companies and was approved by Italian supervision authorities.
The project was performed in cooperation with one of Europe's leading construction firms - STRABAG, that carried out erection of the installation on the territory of Biennale in Venice.
Erwin Wurm personally supervised the process of installation's creation at Gorky Automobile Plant, coming to GAZ in Nizhny Novgorod to meet the project team and for delivery acceptance.
Erwin Wurm, artist:
- Mobility has long been a theme in my work, for instance in the bent truck that I made many years ago; transport as such interested me early on, particularly with regard to the human body. The ascent inside the truck to the viewing platform enables visitors to experience space in three different manners: physically, mechanically and medially. The narrowness of the inside and wideness of the view on the top evoke emotions of captivity and freedom. This of course also brings to mind geopolitical circumstances of our lives. At first I wanted to produce this large work myself, in my studio. But it soon became clear to me that this wasn’t feasible—a walk-in sculpture, a 9.6-meter tower that eventually was to be placed in front of the pavilion. Different principles apply here, especially different legal requirements. We looked for a company in Austria that would carry out the production but couldn’t find one. Finally, Siegfried Wolf, a businessman who strengthens cultural and economic ties between Russia and Europe, a Chairman of Russian automotive manufacturer GAZ Group, agreed to do it. He sponsored not only the production but also all the technical and organizational processes involved. Specialists of Gorky Automobile Plant understood perfectly the concept of the installation and helped me put it into reality, for which I am deeply grateful to them.
Siegfried Wolf, Chairman of GAZ Board of Directors:
- Debut of GAZon NEXT before the global audience took place in the autumn of 2016 at the international commercial transport exhibition in Hannover, and today we are presenting the vehicle as an object of contemporary art. Having developed the installation's concept, Erwin Wurm made the choice of our automobile, and it is doubtlessly a great honor for us. Art unites people, eliminates barriers, and widens horizons. That is also the mission of GAZ as a manufacturer of commercial vehicles – GAZ delivers its products to more than 40 countries of the world and is planning to further expand its export footprint. The company is integrating in the international automotive industry through cooperation with global auto makers: we produce automobiles for VW and Daimler, realized a number of joint projects in the components supply sector. People of business, same as people of arts are interested in the strengthening of cultural, economic and historical links between Russia and the rest of the world despite the current political differences and economic sanctions. Erwin Wurm's concept is a vivid illustration of such pursuit of mutual understanding.