On September 1, 2023, Sam Chermayeff Office hosted the group exhibition Cars and the Public Joy at their Berlin space. A veritable showcase of the artistic might within the renowned architect’s orbit, the show’s structural core was formed by the work and ethos of VÉHICULE—the husband-and-wife co-organizers. Founded on Miami’s beaches by Christopher Kippenberger, VÉHICULE is as multifaceted as it is hard to pin down. In the past years the creative house has published a magazine of investigative journalism, bound an exposé of corporate transgressions, fabricated a no-holds-barred carbon-fiber boat, tuned a fire-breathing Mercedes-Benz G-Class, designed and released its own line of carefully considered clothing, accessories and watches, and produced mirrored sculptures, with Kippenberger’s omnivorous sense of inquiry suffusing this ever-expanding roster of projects. Cars and the Public Joy was dubbed a workshop—the third such joint effort by Chermayeff and VÉHICULE—and took shape through those that it attracted.
A lit beacon on an otherwise darkened street, Kippenberger and his cohorts transformed an apartment building’s foyer into the site of their participative practice. Lining one wall was a selection of VÉHICULE’s written works, each clad in inconspicuous black-on-white branding, constituting a showcase ready for perusal. Across the space stood a refrigerator. At first glance a canvas for Kippenberger’s Mr. Miami series of ink drawings, inside was a further VÉHICULE endeavor—canned Kopi Luwak iced coffee—a catalyst for conversation passed out by Kippenberger himself. A queue of people formed at the center of the installation, each link of the chain clutching some form of white garment. Varying in shape, condition and style, the articles of clothing were brought by the participants, and awaited a heat press. There, the VÉHICULE team, armed with a slate of wry iron-on emblems drawn from the tropical surroundings that they call home, chose and applied the graphics in conversation with their public. Here, creation, not consumption became the focus—a collective motion for reclamation.
A trio of a sidewalk-parked Volvo V70, a Land Rover Defender 90 and a repurposed car-share Tesla Model 3 were simply props for Cars and the Public Joy—mounts for suction-cupped tables and chairs created by Chermayeff and fabricated by Berlin’s ErtlundZull. Forward-pointing, the vehicles all but guided a visitor around the corner to BLESS’ Saunarider—the artist duo’s 2022 mobile sauna housed in a Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class. Developed in cooperation with Chermayeff, Saunarider and its wood-bead interior recalled the long-standing collaboration between BLESS and Kippenberger who, 20 years ago, worked together to create the duo’s Berlin storefront. BLESS and Kippenberger have followed their own artistic paths in recent years. Cars and the Public Joy was a reunion for some and an introduction for others, the ephemeral exhibition morphing into a fleeting social hub, a flash of energy generated communally.