I first came to know the pair from Rogues’ Gallery six years ago when they were about to set out dressed all in black. Even the car was black, a customized Citroën XM that was part of an art project crossing Japan, Gasoline Music & Cruising (GM&C).
GM&C is noise music that uses the sounds recorded by microphones in the car engine and indicators, and plays it through countless effects units set up in the passenger seat, reverberating around the cabin at high volume. What’s really special about GM&C is that the “audience” then sits in the back and drives around with the musicians. They only do this at night so they enjoy the changing night view to the booming noise music soundtrack.
Well, the “rogues” have a new project — farming cars! Yes, these experimental guys have now moved on to agriculture. No, they’ve haven’t turned over a new leaf and become organic farmers, it’s a project that tries to create cars for farming. In other words, the artists have become car manufacturers. Ping Cars just had to go and see what was going on…
These “farming cars” (Rogues’ Gallery call them nominsha) are self-made vehicles that serve as both cars and agriculture equipment used by farmers in Awaji Island. The island is known for growing onions and come the harvest during the rainy season, mountains of onions need to be transported from the muddy fields, along with lots of water. Compact and powerful cars are essential for covering the ground over the fields and the narrow roads that characterize the island. Recent developments in minitrucks are really impressive, but the people of the island long ago pooled their ideas and created their own farming cars. Although the numbers of cars have gone right down now, it’s still not rare to see these cars being used on farms.
Rogues’ Gallery first heard about the cars when GM&C visited Awaji Island. Everyone’s car had a different size and design, and they rode on the top with no hood. At a glance, they knew they had to be hand-made and customized in some way. The farmers had taken existing cars’ secondhand parts and added them according to how they needed to be used, with local iron factories and mechanics all helping to produce them. The result was that all the vehicles differed per creator. For Rogues’ Gallery, these farming cars looked like the battle machines that might appear in some 1980′s near-future sci-fi movie.
Later, when they perused the entry forms for Media Gym, an event run by an NPO in Osaka called remo, it said that “things produced by yourself aspire to improve the ability to create things by your own hands, the foundational physical fitness of media artists”. And they remembered the Awaji Island farming cars.
Research into Awaji Island Farming Cars
The first thing they did was start to conduct field research into the farming cars of Awaji Island. Going every weekend to Awaji, the Rogues’ Gallery duo interviewed the owners and creators of the cars. There were the places that sold the cars, of course, as well as where the scrap cars or car parts were put; it began from a complete state of cluelessly searching around for whatever was there. The two weren’t especially knowledgeable about how cars are put together, let alone familiar with metal hand-work, such as using welding machines, so they had to learn all this. When speaking with the people who made the cars they were also able to get on and have a ride for themselves.
By coincidence, when PingMag was covering the pair’s work, there was also the Awaji Island Farming Car Rally 2013, so we could take a look at the kaleidoscope of cars that had wowed Rogues’ Gallery over the years.
The Ups and Downs of Making a Car
The Rogues’ Gallery team weren’t actually aiming to do any farming so what they ended up designing was a minimal and flat car without limits — something with an extremely primitive structure.
But making a car is no easy matter, even if you do lots of research. To start with, they had no experience of welding. So for a while they went to Awaji Island just to practice that. And at the point when they were getting really frustrated with the progress of the project, they were rescued by the semi-automatic welding machine they found online. But then they got all caught up in taking apart the base they had chosen for their car, a Suzuki Jimny. Removing the parts and cutting the car up to dismantle it, the pace of their work slowed right down as they got closer to the core elements that form the frame of their farming car. They called in a mentor who had helped them with fitting out the GM&C car and quick as a flash it was finished.
Well, after that they still had to assemble it, yet another big test. Their teacher told them all about the details of the mechanics surrounding a car… the engine, steering wheel, brakes, headlights… but it was still heavy going. It took them three months till they had their car complete. Their design was simple enough but to make a car takes a monumental amount of creativity.
Complete! “The Self-Made Car” by Rogues’ Gallery
Rogues’ Gallery’s “battle machine” was finished! Though it was tough to produce the “hand-made” car, it brings together all the unorthodox audaciousness of farming cars they acquired while doing their research on Awaji Island. Okay, let’s take it out of the studio and get a look at it in a brighter location.
What impressed the Rogues’ Gallery pair the most during this project was not completing their farming car, but the time they first took it out for a spin. And then that moment when they first operated the dumping function they had added on as an extra blow them away even more. Yes, the best thing about a car is, after all, driving it.
Rogues’ Gallery called their farming car “The Self-Made Car”. Ping Cars was so impressed we wanted to make our own! So, what shall we make? We are getting excited even just imagining it.
Special Thanks: Kubo Warehouse, les contes, remo, NPO Awaji Island Art Center, RESULT