‘It exists far beyond a mere means of transport,’ explains Alex Innes, head of Rolls-Royce Coachbuild design. ‘The Boat Tail is not about reaching a destination. It is the destination itself.’ Innes is referring to the marque’s latest project, one of only three specially commissioned nautical inspired custom-built motor cars, which premiers the new division dedicated to creating such hand built products.
I visited the home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood a little while ago to see the car prior to its world premier today. And it is a stylistic tour de force, full of the sort of unexpected pleasures that define luxury today. Take a closer look at the design story as Innes guides me around and inside the Boat Tail here.
‘Ultimate Collector Cars‘ is a lavish double-volume book by Charlotte and Peter Fiell documenting history’s one-hundred most collectable cars. It features the landmark 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 40-horsepower, the evocative 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC, iconic Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa of 1957, Bertone’s supremely glorious 1973 Lamborghini Countach and the present-day McLaren Speedtail and Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercars. Expertly researched and beautifully illustrated with archive and studio photography, Taschen’s latest book is a timely ode to the motor car as we enter the new age of the automobile. Read my interview with the authors who discuss their two-year research into this project here.
Rolls-Royce has chosen four shortlisted artists for the inaugural ‘Dream Commission’ for moving-image art. Chosen by an independent jury of leading international figures in the art world, the work this dynamic group produce is highly relevant, reflecting our current discussions on culture, on gender and race and our relation with technology.
They include Beatriz Santiago Muñoz from Puerto Rico, Zhou Tao from China and the American artists Martine Syms and Sondra Perry – all of whom have made short moving-image pieces detailing their concepts. Once the jury has decided on an ultimate winner, Rolls-Royce will finance the full-length moving-image artwork to be released next year.
The biannual Dream Commission is aimed at emerging and mid-career artists who demonstrate innovation in the field of moving image art. As the name suggests, participants are asked to investigate their dreams as a way of finding an alternative sensory universe – perhaps take us on journeys into the world of the subconscious. Their work needs to be impactful and immersive.
To understand more, I caught up with Hans Ulrich Obrist, the curator, author and artistic director at London’s Serpentine Galleries, who is on the Dream Commission selection jury.
Nargess Banks: Needless to say, these are challenging times for the arts. On the one hand, the temporary closure of art spaces has brought a renewed longing for seeing live visual arts. Then, these are extraordinary times too in that we are revising and reviewing how art is shown – what subjects are represented and who has been underrepresented. What struck me immediately with this selection is the relevance of the chosen artists.
Hans Ulrich Obrist: A series of brilliant nominators proposed a wonderful long list of artists, which the jury then shortlisted from. The commission acts as a laboratory for artists, and what has become evident is that this next generation is thinking about mixed reality, and quite radically liberating moving image away from defining characteristics such as its ‘loop’, works become instead infinite, sprawling and organic.
NB: The theme of dreams and investigating our subconscious strikes me as a fascinating topic.
HUO: Around 20 years ago I met Hélène Cixous, the great French writer, who was at the time working on a book called ‘Dream I Tell You’, where she transcribed her dreams. It opens with an observation: ‘They tell me their stories in their language, in the twilight, all alike or almost, half gentle half cruel, before any day, any hour. I don’t wake, the dream wakes me…’
I often speak to artists about their unrealised projects, their dreams; I’ve been documenting them since the ’90s and it is one of the recurring questions I’ve been asking throughout my interview project. My investigations are intimately connected to the dimension of dreams also, projects as a cherished aspiration, an idea or an ambition.
NB: And what were you looking for when deciding on the Dream Commission shortlist?
HUO: We asked ourselves how, as a jury, can we better listen to what is being said by artists amongst so much distance and confusion? So we engaged in some active listening and this is the shortlist that spoke to us.
Sondra Perry says of making work that she ‘wants people to feel like they have space and agency’.
For Martine Syms, ‘art is a way for me to think and way for me to learn about myself, but also about the world and other people’. Through making work she explores her own personal mythology, anchored in the biological, psychological and the sociological.
Beatriz Santiago Muñoz explains that it’s an opportunity to ‘experiment with the expanded mind’. Moving-image is for her an ‘experimental process which functions like an organism’.
Zhao Tao told us that moving images are experiences which reflect on the spatial interface of a ‘remote space’ during this time of lockdown.
NB: Collectively, their work speaks very much of our time.
HUO: Indeed, our shortlist have worked to create films during the pandemic. It is this time, more than ever, we should be listening to artists – it is often they who have the most important and prescient ideas about how one can act in times of crisis.
NB: The commission artists are from such different cultures and backgrounds. Do you see a unified voice coming out of this?
HUO: All of our shortlisted artists address urgent issues of our time with remarkable energy and commitment. Their work is all very different, but it is all generous, engaged and empathetic.
As Marshall McLuhan writes in ‘Understanding Media’: ‘Art is an early alarm system pointing us to new developments in times ahead and allowing us to prepare to cope with them.’ These artists all make work that will help us understand the world that is to come.
Take a look at the work of the four shortlisted artists in the Rolls-Royce 2021 Dream Commission here. Also read why brands and businesses should support arts and ideas here.
See the four chosen Dream Commission artists discuss their work:
The new Rolls Royce Ghost is reflective of a visual language for a (hopefully) more subtle and discreet post-pandemic luxury landscape. Seen – and to be driven later this month – this is an accomplished product that wears its wealth lightly. And I’m sincerely hoping the design team will entice their wealthy and influential customers to invest in more sustainable fabrics inside and to use this as a vehicle for exploring materials beyond the traditional leather and wood.
The pandemic has given us the opportunity to rethink our world, help imagine an altogether better one, a more sustainable one … and this extends very much to how we view the design of more exclusive items. They can lead the way.
Rolls-Royce is calling it post-opulence. Bannenberg & Rowell say it is post-hedonism. Is luxury about to enter a new age? The reality is with almost any product or experience casually labelled ‘luxury’, the concept no longer holds any special value.
Today, luxury is more than often brash, vulgar, and a mirror of the less tasteful side of our cultures. It is time to reclaim the word and make it relevant to the post-coronavirus era.