Deconstructing Systems: A Car

Taking apart a Fiat Panda in order to understand the world

15 Jul 2016
24 Jul 2016

During the course of ten days, Olivier Oosterbaan and Victor Engbers will completely take apart a car. The car is exemplary for the complex and incomprehensible systems that surround us and by deconstructing it they will try to tackle and understand these. The event will take place in our Sluisdeurenloods and guests and audience are happily invited to help tinker and disassemble.


A car mirror - A car mirror from a deconstructed car.

Understanding Systems

Olivier and Victor have no further knowledge on cars. During the course of this project they will try to find out if it is possible to gain a sense of control over a system that neither understands. In this undertaking the car acts as a symbol for the complex and abstract systems that surround us in our society. By unraveling one such system it might perhaps be possible to unravel another and that way maybe make sense of the systems the rule our world.

During the day Victor and Olivier will tinker away on the car, during the evening invited guests of all sorts will help understanding a varied array of systems. Artists, philosophers, writers, a banker, a judge, a psychologist and a neuroscientist, all will share their wisdom and shed their light on the case.


Deconstructing a Car - Is it possible to gain a sense of control over the numerous systems that dominate our world by deconstructing a very present one, like the car?


Friday 15 July

Deconstructing Systems: A Car: Start

16:00 - Walk in.
17:00 - The exploded view.

Dirk van Weelden (author, essayist) reacts to Engbers' and Oosterbaan's action of dismantling a functional Fiat Panda in a public space in 10 days. This slow explosion of the car into discrete parts has ironic, reflective, didactical and critical dimensions. There's a fun part as well, the rush of doing something you do not fully master, and there's even a destructive tinge to it. Van Weelden will try to put it all together for you.

17.30-19.00 - Olivier and Victor get to work. Drinks for all.

Saturday 16 July

Work, work, work (and a movie)

8:00-18:00 - Olivier and Victor continue to take apart a car.
21:00 - Movie: Peter Weir's 'The Cars That Ate Paris'.

Film programmer Massimo Benvegnú will present his pick for a movie that is also about taking stuff apart: Cars as both objects and tools of destruction.

During the day you're also invited to visit the live performance of Soot-o-mat by Slovenian artist Spela Petric.

Sunday 17 July

No-plan: the pleasure of discovery

8:00-18:00 - Olivier and Victor continue to take apart a car.
All day - Learning by doing. Join in on the fun.

Are you already thinking about how you would go about taking apart a car? Do you want to come over and take a look inside? Olivier and Victor will share their early discoveries and they’ll want to know how you would do it. Come and show us.


The act of deconstructing. - When confronted with a complex system such as a car, where do you start? , Victor Engbers

Monday 18 July

Work, Work, Work

8:00-18:00 - Olivier and Victor continue to take apart a car.
18:00 - A discussion with master butcher Arend ten Wolde about the value of craftsmanship, tradition and innovation.

Come and find us during the day while we continue to work. When the day is done, we’ll sit down with third-generation master butcher Arend ten Wolde (Uw Meesterslager, Slagerij de Wit) to talk about craftsmanship, learning, and dissecting cars versus pigs.

Neuroscientist Lex van Delden will also visit Olivier and Victor.

Tuesday 19 July

Watching Work

8:00-18:00 - Olivier and Victor continue to take apart a car. With YouTube livestream.
20:00 - Talk & Discussion Taking Things Apart with: Antonius de Munck, ina Rončević, Ronald Schelfhout, Annesas Appel.

Taking things apart has become somewhat of a genre in art. A trend even. This evening we invite three artists who dissect, dismantle and unravel to talk about their practice. Introduction by philosopher Antonius de Munck, who will provide a theoretical framework.

During the day there will be a livestream. Watch first-hand from the safety of your home while two guys slowly work their way through taking apart a car.

Wednesday 20 July

Transgression: new domains and new knowledge

8:00-18:00 - Olivier and Victor continue to take apart a car.
15:00 - AA Patrol officer (wegenwachter) Fred Wesselius
20:00 - Discussion with philosophical anthropologist Adriano Habed.

By now, Olivier and Victor are in an advanced stage of their process. Yet, to what extent can they be called amateur (if not professional) mechanics? We’ll sit down with philosopher Adriano Habed (researcher at Utrecht University) to discuss the social and anthropological dimension of this work. Together, we'll try to understand what makes someone an expert, exploring how skills and knowledge is acquired, how groups function by means of mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion, and what is the role of experience in this.

Thursday 21 July

Object of desire

8:00-18:00 - Olivier and Victor continue to take apart a car.
20:00 - Objects as identification and desire/ mythology of the car.

An image presentation by Joost Pollmann, who is a publicist and specialist in popular culture. Once, on the Spanish/ French border, his white Fiat Panda was dissected by the police because they suspected there was drugs hidden inside of it. He will give a pictorial lecture on the deconstruction of human dignity as a result of prejudices, or, put differently: on (racial) profiling on the basis of cars.

Friday 22 July

Work, work, work (and movies)

8:00-18:00 - Olivier and Victor continue to take apart a car.
21:00 - Movies: Czech Dream & Pasolini’s Teorema.

Film programmer Jeffrey Babcock will present his picks for two movies that are about dealing with systems. First, Czech Dream (Cesky sen), directed by Vit Klusak and Fillip Remunda. Two film students create a fake supermarket in the middle of a mud field, and blitzkrieg the city with advertisements for the opening day. Will their spoof work? After that, at 23:00, T E O R E M A (Theorem), directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. A stranger (Terrence Stamp) visits a small bourgeois family, and silently blows away their hollow and facile existence by dismantling it piece by piece. Both movies are with English subtitles.

Saturday 23 July

Work, work, work

8:00-18:00 - Olivier and Victor continue to take apart a car.
18:00 - Learning by doing.

The final leg. Either we are done, or we need all the help we can get. Come over and find out, look at the results, and help us out if you want.

Sunday 24 July

The real: images and printed matter as evidence (and finissage)

8:00-16:00 - Olivier and Victor continue to take apart a car.
16:00 - Presentation of publication.

During the week, Print the Future’s Klara van Duijkeren and Vincent Schipper have observed the action of unmaking a car, and have mirrored it by preparing a publication in the same time-frame. We don’t know yet what it will be: it can be a magazine, a poster, a set of instruction cards. We’ll talk with Klara and Vincent about their choices, and about using printed matter as a record.

18:00 Close. Job well done? Time for a toast.


The owners manual for the Fiat Panda - Deconstructing a car is quite a project, a manual might come in handy. , Victor Engbers


Deconstructing Systems: A Car // 15 - 24 July
Mediamatic Biotoop, Dijksgracht 6, Amsterdam
Free entrance

Note: During the project a number of special guests will come by to watch and talk about different subjects that touch on taking apart a car/ a system. They have been invited and have confirmed, but there’s no timetable. This list will grow. Updates (as well as a time table when available) will be published on Facebook.

Jetske van Heemstra, psychologist; on psychodiagnostics.
Zoro Feigl, artist, on art and technology.
Aukje Dekker, artist, on art systems.
Stephaan Maas, architect, on fixing old cars.
Noor Engbers, judge, on the judicial system.
Roland Engbers, banker, on the money system.
Timo Slootweg, philosopher, on deconstructivism.
Antonius de Muck, philosopher, on dialectics.
Lex van Delden, neuroscientist, on the human machine.
Annemarieke Samson, writer, on men and cars.
Hans Aarsman, ex-photographer.
Olaf Mooij, artist, on cars as bodies.
Yvonne Drögge Wendel, artist, on objects and humans.

With financial support from Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst.