Every time I come across one of these stories, I’m equal parts amazed at how creative humans are and how we can turn just about anything into just about anything else, and jealous that I don’t have the ability or the motivation to transform an ordinary object into something awesome. Although eventually, if I keep writing about projects such as turning a car into a sculpture of a squatting Transformer, perhaps the mojo will rub off on me.”
The UK’s Hetain Patel sums up his work pretty simply — it’s “about being.” Patel explores identity formation by examining one’s use of language and movement. He’s a multi-media artist whose work includes everything from sculpture to photography to performance art, which is pretty much exactly how I’d sum up the idea of Transformers.
Not that I’ve thought all that deeply about the identify of Optimus Prime or Megatron, but if I did, questions of identity would certainly arise — man, robot, or vehicle? Or all three? — as would questions about whether their transforming is simply a practical act or an artistic one. Maybe every time they fight, they’re actually performing, creating art even as they destroy other objects. This is deep stuff, see?
Patel certainly wants us to focus on such questions. He’s not particularly forthcoming with exact details about the process of transforming the car, but he does offer the below time-lapse video so fans can see the conversion in progress. Although it was certainly much more difficult than it looks, I’m sure having a dad who converts cars into limos and hearses and a brother who’s an engineer helped.
Unlike other fanatics who complete awesome customizations or transformations simply because they’re mega-fans, Patel clearly sees something important in the transformation, which is why he decided to recreate it using a 1988 Ford Fiesta exactly like the one he got from his dad when he turned 17. Patel notes that even as the project directly references the popular American cartoon, the car also symbolizes his own independence, as well as working-class England, and how a transformation fantasy brings empowerment.
Patel got a 1988 Ford Fiesta and rounded up his dad and his brother to help him with the conversion. For Patel, it was important that end result showed the Transformer in a rather calm, even contemplative state rather than in battle stance. He sees the Transformer’s squatting position as a link to his Indian heritage, as the working class in India often squat when they’re chilling out. His Transformer sculpture represents a dichotomy between a squat, which is often regarded as somewhat submissive, and its huge size, which suggests dominance.
Patel’s Fiesta Transformer is currently on display at France’s SPHERES 6 gallery. Patel also gave a TED talk in May in which he demonstrates his union of identity, language, and movement. Well, I can safely say that I’ll never look at a Transformer the same way again, which I think is a triumph for comics and science fiction as much as it is for art.