Green Cars

Artist: Nominee: BijaRi
Location: Multiple sites in São Paulo, multiple sites in other cities in Brazil, and Graz, Austria
Year of completion: 2009
Researcher: Ashley Guindon

Green Cars is an initiative by BijaRi, a multidisciplinary creative collective of São Paulo, Brazil. As part of this series, the group of creative professionals has installed eleven works throughout São Paulo, in other Brazilian cities, and in the European city of Graz in Austria. Each work consists of a car stripped of its insides, planted with vegetation, and left in a public place. Some cars also include green lights to illuminate them at night.

Since 2000, much of BijaRi’s work has taken the form of video, new media, motion graphics, and digital technology. Their client list includes Coca-Cola, Ford, Trident, and HBO, and they have produced impressive public light and video displays on stages, bridges, and buildings. These works have included a video production to celebrate São Paulo’s 425th anniversary, which was projected onto a water fountain (Ibirapuera Park Fountain, 2013), an interactive video work for Absolut Vodka (2011) in which participants could “draw” on a blank canvas through motion activation, and a 262-foot LED video screen for the Planeta Terra events of 2011. These stunning displays are just a small sample of the many technologically advanced and artistically innovative works in BijaRi’s portfolio.

More Below


In addition to these astounding and visually appealing feats of technology, the group has also produced simple, elegant, and often somewhat humorous public art interventions aimed at social and political commentary. An example in this vein is Chicken (2002), in which two live chickens were released in two busy public spaces —one upper-class area, one working-class neighborhood—as a means of interrupting the daily routines and patterns of both publics. Green Cars is similar in its aim, though perhaps less controversial. The project is part of a larger body of work called Urban Nature (2007-present), in which urban structures—such as billboards, garbage bins, and even a bus—are turned into gardens of lush greens.

Green Cars is compelling in several ways. The first is the most apparent: the tension between urban and natural space. As the old cars are stripped of their technology and man-made parts, then filled with plants, they become green, living, breathing organisms in contrast to their original purpose. They are there for the contemplation of passersby, highlighting the dichotomy of the built and the natural. In this sense they act as much public art does—as a monument to an idea to be observed, considered, and appreciated. Beyond this, however, is their function within the public realm. Some of the installations are reported by locals and removed by the city almost immediately after installation, making them a symbolic reminder of the tension between art and politics. Some were reported but not removed for weeks or months—reminders of a sometimes broken municipal system. Still other carswere adopted by people in their neighborhood, who take responsibility for their maintenance and use them as a gathering space. The work, then, offers us insight into art in the public realm. For some members of the public, Green Cars was seen as an unnecessary blight on their street, or, perhaps, as unnecessary usage of a parking space. Others took ownership of the works, embraced their message, and put them to good use. These reactions—from the utilitarian to the libertarian—take place whenever art enters into the public realm. The work’s layers make for an interesting, innovative, and poetic case study.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency