Summary: If the futurity of petroculture is a dreadful question mark, how then will car culture move forward into the future? What will happen to all the abstract categories — humanisms and cultural habitudes — that are “animated” by petroleum (Szeman, 146)? This photo essay is supposed to capture just a few of those abstract categories on polaroid film, which is largely aesthetically associated with instant memories. The metaphorical activism that occurs in this artistic expression theoretically happens as soon as the photo was snapped; the context converts the imagination of car culture to a hypothetically spent culture. The visual aspect helps one see that extinction of petroleum dependence is extinction of a cultural amount of idiosyncrasies.
Road, pavement, asphalt — it is all ubiquitous in the modern world. So much of the earth is paved for the convenience of cars. The progression of cars is part of an ever—sprawling mentality and the entitlement to any access to land that one desires.
The arrow could be an emblem of futurity of cars, but it is as mysterial in its symbol as a traveling question mark heading down the lane.
Car culture starts, covertly, at a young age, before we can decisively participate or not. Hand-held toy cars ready a child’s imagination as they perform and play — what they are promised as a coming-of-age tradition — driving.
What is especially achieved in a scene like this is the cartooning of car culture that will lend the child a predisposition to cognitive dissonance that keeps every driver ordinarily innocent in what happens to be an ordinary toxic activity.
Here is a modern cowboy. What makes him a cowboy? Is it the hat? It’s not the cattle because there are none in sight, nor a ranch or pasture. Cowboy is an American word for a man who herds cattle on horseback. Yet, here, something key in that definition still remains, even for a cowboy on asphalt. Perhaps the truck is the new horse — the animal underneath man that lends all of its power to him. The truck has the same kingly, high-up seat, and it keeps his aesthetic strong and wild.
That little boy with the toy cars will grow up and get his driver’s license right around the time his high school crush starts to notice him. He will have an unprecedented freedom and be able to go farther and faster from home without supervision.
Cars are vehicles of freedom at a young age. A car can be the first taste of self-agency and the mobile privacy a teen needs. Strangely, cars are the space of many a first kiss.
This image has two subjects — the driver and his reflection. Though driving is often lonely, boring, and even dangerous, it’s mollified by the opportunity to get lost in thought. Cognitive dissonance is a blessing to the act of driving because we rarely experience it for what it is. Instead, we can manage the lines on the road and travel elsewhere in our thoughts. The driving experience consists more of an individual’s imagination than the present moment of instantaneous speed, brake lights, and combustion of gas.
This photo captures an intersection of two cultural abstractions — motorcycles and tattoos — both with an underlying theme of rebellious fashion and both with a reputation of social currency. In that aspect, one aesthetic here lends to the other and vice versa. What are they borrowing and giving to one another? Perhaps a sensual hedonism. Perhaps speed and pain and pleasure all buy into each other in the formation of a certain aesthetic.
The sign says “Body & Paint.” A familiar shop like this reminds one how much we covet our cars. They can be busted like the back end of the one in the picture or rendered obsolete by time and use, but we often assign so much abstract meaning to one individual body that it can become a relic in one’s life and worth it to repair.
Car culture then extends to a labor force. Cars generate business in their mechanical functions. They also generate business the more we covet the art of the car. The body, paint, inter-workings, interior leather, pleasing hums of a good engine, shine off the windows, and so on.
Szeman, Imre. “How to Know about Oil: Energy Epistemologies and Political Futures.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes. Vo. 47, no.3. Fall 2013, pp. 145-168 (Article) DOI: 10.1353/jcs.2013.0020