Damian Ortega’s Cosmic Thing


Mexican artist Damian Ortega likes to take things apart and then (almost) piece them together again.

In his most celebrated work, 2002’s Cosmic Thing, he disassembled a Volkswagen Beetle and re-composed it piece by piece, suspended from wire in mid-air.

The piece looked like an exploded diagram in a mechanic’s instruction manual.

Thing is, the three dimensional aspect of what is a pretty commonplace idea (especially for car-lovers) forces you to consider things like space and form. What is it about cars that makes them cars, and what does it take to design such an intricate piece of mass culture?

The fact that the BEETLE is probably one of the most commonplace and totemic designs of 20th century modernism adds a bit to the frisson – as does the fact that it was designed as a National-Socialist icon – and for years this motif of the modern was produced in Mexico under license.

We love art that questions things that appear to be incontrovertible givens – and it’s clear to us that cars like the BEETLE are very much ideas, philosophies wrought in wteel with mass industries and processes brought to bear.