Concept artist Vladimir Nikolic spent two nights at the Mercedes-Benz Museum to retrace and mimic the expressions of the brand’s most striking models – in a decidedly humorous way
Back when he was a little child, Serbian concept and video artist Vladimir Nikolic already thought about mimicking the look and expression of a car. Every day on his way to school, he would shoot yearning glances at passing vehicles and secretly imitate their different “faces”.
In 2001, this game evolved into a veritable series of Autoportraits, featuring 16 evocative interpretations of different car faces discovered in the streets of Belgrade, effectively demonstrating the artist’s ingenious creativity and sense of humour. Nikolic’ work, however, aimed for something beyond the obviously bizarre effects of his photographic and performative exercise: “In my native tongue, autoportrait actually means 'self-portrait' - making the title a play of words that hints at the car’s function and role as part of our human identity. Although cars consist of no more than metal, plastic and rubber, we tend to develop strong emotional bonds with them. We choose a car that matches our character. So, to me these Autoportraits also tell the story of identity.”
We meet Nikolic at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart where he works on a new edition and reworking of his Autoportraits series. During two highly focused nights – and offset by dramatic lighting – he stages and photographs himself with select Mercedes-Benz classics and current models. “It is incredible just how much character and emotion these cars exude. Not only in their obvious front and face, but also throughout their entire body and chassis.”
Just like any thorough character study, Nikolic views the cars from all sides to discover just the right angle and perspective with the most striking and characteristic expression – and then interprets this view with the aid of his apparently inborn empathy for moving vehicles. After wrapping up the intense production, Nikolic sat down with us to reveal the emotions he associates with six select models.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
“A truly beautiful car. I like the way it presents itself as a powerful sports car without any sense of intimidation. It seems to say, 'Although I could beat you any time and anywhere, there is simply no need to play on my strength.' At the same time, its similarity to a seagull somehow makes it very likeable.”
“From this angle, the metal contours around the headlights resemble the eyebrows of a sad face. The bumper evokes similar connotations – it reminds me of a slightly disappointed mouth.”
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé
“The shape of the headlights conjures up an aggressive look with slightly raised eyebrows while the bumper seems to say 'get out of my way!' The whole composition also vibrates with a sense of anticipation, as if the car is about to head off at any moment.”
Fuel consumption combined: 12,0-4,4 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 280-117 (g/km).*
Mercedes-Benz W 25
“As a racing car, the W 25 has no headlights, so I, too, keep my eyes closed. The car’s entire front runs towards a single point, as if it was pursing its lips and trying to kiss someone. So, my own face also focuses on my pursed lips to capture the essence and look of this dynamic and very erotic vehicle.”
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
“A superb car without any overt sense of aggression. It was a challenge to pinpoint the right look and perform it, but in the end I thought its headlights exuded a certain sense of cool.”
Fuel consumption combined: 13,2 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 308 (g/km).*
“This car was a real challenge. While the radiator grille reminded me of bared teeth, it also seemed have an eerie, provocative smile. 'He he he, now I will show you!' So, I opened my mouth a little and only gave the camera the tiniest smile, as if I was actually trying to hide it. And that seemed to work in the end.”
Vladimir Nikolic lives and works in Belgrade. His videos and installations have been part of group and solo shows around the world.
For further information on his art, please visit www.vladimir-nikolic.com