A Ghent city police car pulls into the entrance of the 019 building every evening at dusk to run through its communication functions. The car is a powerfully equipped message bearing system, a signalling device with lights and sounds, graphic markings that flank its exterior body. Inside the driver has access to an array of technology, including 700 MHz multiband digital radio, dash-mounted Mobile Data Computer, DVR video, and touchpad lighting and siren controls. The demonstration takes place for about 15 minutes each side of sunset.
Following a comparative ecology of animals and people, could patterns of human behaviour in the urban twilight of any city be compared to the early evening fly-out of owls and bats? Or even the rare bloom of vespertine flowers that open so briefly and only in the evening. Vespertine instincts are a special category of the crepuscular, occurring at dusk rather than at dawn or in full darkness. This is the moment when street lights and vehicle headlamps are coming on, shadows are longer and the interior space of the car is darker, as the driver, along with other inhabitants of the city, adjusts to the changing light and atmosphere of the day.
The red and blue strobe lights pulsing from the car’s front and rear grill, and the light bar on its roof, might also remind us of the so-called ‘crepuscular rays’ of sunlight that stream through gaps in the clouds of a dramatic sunset. Examples of this meteorological effect featured in the local landscapes and cityscapes of the Belgian painter James Ensor, among others, focussed on a symbolically vespertine moment of urban contemplation when the contrasts between light and dark are most apparent.
The opening event will take place at 019 on the evening of Sunday, May 4. Dates for other evenings will follow.
‘I’m a Police Car’ takes place in conjunction with Paul’s exhibition ‘Body Alive with Signals’ at Objectif Exhibitions in Antwerp, from 3 May until 28 June, 2014.
Paul Elliman is an artist based in London. Known for his work with a found typography of objects and industrial debris, he also follows the human voice through many of its social and technological guises, often imitating other languages and sounds of the city. As a commissioned artist for the New York biennial Performa 09 his project Sirens Taken for Wonders involved a series of siren-walks through the city in search of emergency vehicle alerts. In 2012 a selection from his typographical archive of discarded letter-like machine parts and found objects was included in the exhibition ‘Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language’ at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In 2013 he published Untitled (September Magazine), a 600 page glossy magazine using found images to explore connections between language and gesture – awarded the 2014 Prix Fernand Baudin here in Belgium. PE is also a thesis advisor at Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem, Netherlands.
This project is made possible with the help of the Ghent city police department, Objectif Exhibitions & the Flemish community.