Damián Ortega’s Cosmic Thing – Entire Volkswagen Beetle dissected

Damian Ortega - Cosmic Thing, 2002
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, Malmö Konsthall, photo: Helene Toresdotter

About Damián Ortega

Damián Ortega was born in Mexico City in 1967. He now divides his time between Mexico City and Berlin. He has gained a world-renowned reputation as his works have been exhibited internationally. His art career began as a political cartoonist, which has influenced his more recent work, as is evident in the playful energy often found in his works.

What is Damián Ortega known for?

Ortega is a multitalented artist who is known for his installations, sculptures, videos and performance pieces. He takes inspiration from various seemingly mundane objects and is known for his ability to transform the mundane into something that is anything but. Ortega’s work investigates how culture affects consumption, focusing on explicit economic, aesthetic and cultural situations.

Recurring issues and themes of his work

Ortega’s work includes photography, sculpting, collage creation, and film, all of which serve to draw the audience’s attention to the sociopolitical and very poetic dimensions of every day. It is evident that through his use of satire, Ortega is successful at pointing out the issues and other themes related to capitalism, poverty, globalization, westernization, and immigration.

Cosmic Thing, 2002

“Cosmic Thing” (2002) is without a doubt one of his Ortega’s most celebrated works, in which he took apart a Volkswagen Beetle and re-composed it piece by piece, where it was suspended in midair from wires. It could be described as a hanging diagram where you can see each part of the vehicle, dissected for all to see.

Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy, photo: Agostino Osio/hangarbicocca.org
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy, photo: Agostino Osio
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy, photo: Agostino Osio/hangarbicocca.org
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy, photo: Agostino Osio
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy, photo: Agostino Osio/hangarbicocca.org
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy, photo: Agostino Osio
What the Volkswagen Beetle symbolizes

The vehicle hangs from the ceiling in a satirical meditation on an evident symbol of mass production and, of course, westernization. The Volkswagen Beetle is, without a doubt, a perfect symbol of both. The Volkswagen Beetle was originally developed in the 1930s in fascist Germany and became known as both being efficient and affordable.

Embed from Getty Images

On 27 May 1938, German Chancellor and fascist dictator Adolf Hitler inspects the new “People’s” car at the Fallensleben German car factory
The Volkswagen Beetle after the Second World War

Following the Second World War, the Beetle had great manufacturing success. There were increasing safety regulations in Europe and the United States. By the 1970s, the Beetle was exclusively manufactured in Mexico and Brazil. This soon became the most used car in Mexico City as it was mechanically straightforward and cheap spare parts were always available, allowing Do-It-Yourself repairs. This vehicle was not only accessible but functional and commonly seen on the streets around the world.

Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
The dissected Volkswagen Beetle

However, in Ortega’s piece, as the Beetle suspends in the air, disassembled, it is somewhat shocking. This suspended car, looking like a puzzle that needs to be solved, seems so different than the Beetles commonly seen being driven on the streets; So much more empty and cold, yet undeniably mesmerizing.

Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, 50th Venice Biennial, 2003
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, 50th Venice Biennial, 2003
Video: Exhibition at the Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan

1 min 35 sec
Video: Exhibition, performance & interview with Damián Ortega

5 min
Meaning of the work

Ortega’s ‘Cosmic Thing’ causes viewers to think about how several small pieces come together to create one whole thing. This is the case for mundane objects, images, and structures we see every day. Every structure we have ever seen and many of the objects we own are made of several small pieces pulled together to create a complete product for consumption. This once again draws into the ideas surrounding how culture affects consumption.

Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, Malmø Kunsthal, Sweden Photo: Helene Toresdotter/konsthall.malmo.se
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, Malmø Kunsthal, Sweden, photo: Helene Toresdotter
Damian Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, exhibition ‘Do It Yourself’ at Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2009
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, installation view Do It Yourself, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2009, photo: ICA Boston
Damian Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, exhibition ‘Do It Yourself’ at Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2009
Damián Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002, Volkswagen Beetle 1983, stainless steel wire, acrylic, installation view Do It Yourself, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2009, photo: ICA Boston

All images by Damián Ortega unless otherwise noted.

 

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