My main point is that we are culturally 'asleep at the wheel' ... we have tunnel vision.
Combine this with the recent motor industry problems with thier ‘sticky accelerators’ and ‘broken brakes’
the installation serves as a pertinent metaphor of societies head long, pedal to the metal, attitude to the future,
a pile-up we can bypass if we wake from our collective daydream.
The misty car windows are animated by the multi flashing hazard lights. Quotes relating to the future are seen in the rear view mirror. The space is black-out, the experience is mesmerizing, and thought provoking I hope. I myself am as rooted in the problem as the rest of us. It is plainly true that my career as an international artist with mixed media only became possible due to cheap flights, cheap electronics, and the internet. I have learnt an incredible amount in working on this exhibition, and have turned a corner to improve my own habits and communicate my passionate discoveries. I am called an evangelist at home, but I explain that this is not an optional belief but a necessity with an incredibly
urgent mission to embark on together.
The ghost road of dark cars are on a linear one way route heading towards a pitch black cul-de-sac dead end.
In opposition to this there is a circular communal table with a scattered library of books. It's made from recycled timber and reused local sofas and carpet tiles etc... The Lay-by Library attempts to offer you the chance to read and watch positive and enlightening information to empower you to learn that there are options to help resolve our global problem.
The clearest way I have found in my research is to sign up to the 10:10 initiative and try to join in reducing your carbon footprint. It is possible.. but you have to convince others. This has become the ambition of the work now...
Asleep at the wheel hopes to wake us up.
My dark interior looks with trepidation at the future we are all creating and ignoring [with childlike naivety].
My bright exterior tries to be positive and optimistic [as seen through a childhood gaze]. We exist in between.
If we don't say we care about the future of the earth then the politicians do not focus time on the issues.
They focus on what they think we are interested in. So start talking about it. I'm not a dinner party
bore to want to discuss these subjects. I feel it is essential.
Pass on the videos.
In the 70's and 80's my father Prof Glen Schaefer ran a department called Ecological Physics at Cranfield University UK
where he undertook applied research into alternatives to crop spraying and other issues that still face us today.
He was even exploring the idea of pulling supertankers with high level kites and so forth.
Helen's Story - Project Manager and Milton Keynes resident. She mentioned it was the best possible way to spend her summer. here's why...
Janek asked me to write a little bit about my experiences managing this project, so here goes... Initially as with all new commissions (I expect) it was very difficult to run with the project. I had met Janek in the initial meeting with the festival and heard the ideas as quickly as they came and went. Slowly as I looked into the logistics of these ideas they turned into tangible plans. Some ideas were a little bit mental and filled me with fear and others that I warmed too. Thankfully Janek's ever positive responses to my research and his energy led us organically to produce 'Asleep at the wheel...' together.
After a very shaky start on site, a weeks delay getting into the venue and my house becoming project headquarters for the team, everything begun to fall into place. In actual fact, the delay was a blessing, and not only gave Janek and I the chance to get to know one another, but also gave Janek the opportunity to explore Milton Keynes, to stay in a transition town, and meet a whole network of good people doing good things in one way or another. From Talbot and the young people at Amazing Waste to my team of skilled technicians. The local knowledge and vision of the people that were keen to get involved and the services and products that they have helped us with has astounded me. Discovering that I had just moved to a Transition Town, and that there was a whole network of sustainable projects already practicing and helping my local community was, for me personally, a breath of fresh air.
When it come to the build it was a daunting task. The sheer scale of the building and volume of materials needed to achieve Janek's plans needed thought and planning. Not only to acquire the materials but also to know that they were not going to be wasted after the show. Tricky logistics including my team's availability (with families to keep happy and other jobs to consider), the impossible task of estimating the time and materials needed in this enormous space and our limited budget made it a challenging project. To blackout the windows alone took two people a week. Trouble shooting every issue on every car so that it would survive for 10 days and endure the rigours of the public was no small task, but Luke ensured that every eventuality was covered. And then after 5 weeks in the venue, the show opened and the response was brilliant. I had no idea what the footfall would be to the show so to discover that we had over 7500 visitors in 10 days. Reading the comments book, and hearing the feedback from Bob and our hosts has been very amazing.
So in short my expectations were far exceeded by the dedication and hard work of everyone involved, by the response of our visitors during the festival and some most excellent adventures with new friends. It was a pleasure working on 'Asleep at the wheel... ' with Janek and our team in a darkened derelict old Sainsbury and the perfect way to spend two of the sunniest months this summer 2010.
Message from Bill Gee Creative Producer
‘For the inaugural edition of the IF : Milton Keynes International Festival, I do not think we could have chosen to work with a better first artist-in-residence as with Janek Schaefer. From the first meetings in Autumn 2009 to the production of ‘Asleep at the Wheel’ he and his producer Simon Chatterton Projects were totally alive to the opportunities offered by the canvas of Milton Keynes Central and its relationship to roundabouts and hence the car. The process of identifying the huge empty ex-supermarket was vital to both of us being able to pin down a shape and Shaefer to devise a form of a piece he wanted to make. The team gathered around him, particularly project manager Helen Wright ensured delivery of a fantastic work. At its core was the sound work both within the individual cars on the ‘ghost road’ but also the overall sonic effects of the work in the far third of the huge vacant, blacked out space. We had in excess of 7,500 audience over the ten days and many many of these people left comments to the transformative effect of Schaefer’s work upon them. A very finely conceived and made project with a heart of sound work that did both touch and inform the large public.’
After about 10 days into realising the scale of the problem ahead, and gaining a sense of personal responsability to begin my own changes
I was told I was being too evangelical, and asked
to stop talking about it too much even if realtes to my own life or green ideas.
I must find a balance...
On 2nd June 2010 I bought and pumped my first tank of BioDeisel from Amazing Waste in Milton Keynes