Chevy Nova on Ice
by Jennifer Donovan, public relations director
Actually, it’s a Chevy Nova IN ice, or it will be when visiting artists Mary Carothers and Sue Wrbican get through with it.
With the help of growing numbers of Michigan Tech individuals and organizations—including but by no means limited to the Blue Key Honor Society, Phi Kappa Tau fraternity, campus grounds manager Andy Niemi, the Institute of Snow Research, and a stalwart crew of Hancock High School industrial arts students led by Jim Stevens and Mark Koski—the artists are hard at work on the Michigan Tech campus, freezing the 1978 Nova in a solid block of ice.
Why, you might ask.
It’s a Winter Carnival project, of course, but it’s more than just a stunt.
“We’re redefining our processes of making public art,” says Carothers, an associate professor of fine arts at the University of Louisville. “We want to generate open dialogue with as vast an audience as possible.”
Nor is it a blatant criticism of the exalted status that the automobile has attained in our country and culture. “The frozen car points to the classic struggle of culture versus nature,” said Wrbican, an assistant professor of art and visual technology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Wrbican and Carothers chose Michigan for their unconventional art project because it is the birthplace of the automobile industry. They chose freezing as a way to stop time, to give us a chance to step back and examine how our choices today affect our world tomorrow, and they chose to freeze a car because the automobile is a metaphor for freedom and power. The Nova itself was one of the last of the muscle cars to roll out of Detroit before the oil crisis of the 1970s forced American automakers to start rethinking their ways.
Carothers and Wrbican met in graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design. Since then, they’ve made a specialty of collaborative and unpredictable art. They have blown up a car, set a couch on fire, and traveled back roads in a classic Airstream trailer, all in the name of art.
Now they’ve towed a 30-year-old car named E.D. (for Ethyl’s Daughter) to the Michigan Tech campus, where Hancock High School industrial arts students are building a car-sized container in which Wrbican and Carothers will park the gutted car. Then they will fill the container with water, a little more each day. In the Upper Peninsula’s frigid winter weather, they hope to have an enormous ice cube with the Nova suspended in the center when they remove the box.
“We’re asking the public to think about freedom and power, to become aware of the choices we make and their implications for our present and our future,” Carothers said.
You can watch the frozen car project take shape in front of the bay window on the highway side of the J. R. Van Pelt Library. With a lot of sweat and a few more arctic days, the Nova in ice should be ready when Winter Carnival begins Feb. 6.
For more on the artists and their frozen car project, including a blog on their adventure, see http://www.frozencar.com/ .
For more on Winter Carnival, including a schedule of events, go to http://www.mtu.edu/carnival/ .