It is a Mercedes of a very special kind that is currently attracting attention: The "C 111", a work by the artist Michael Sailstorfer. The sculpture from the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection is part of this year's campaign for the Fashion Festival d'Hyères, which Mercedes-Benz has supported as a partner for many years. For the artwork, the Berlin-based sculptor converted an old Mercedes into his dream car from his childhood days in 2011. How this extraordinary vehicle came about and what drives Michael Sailstorfer in his art, you can read here in the interview.
Mr. Sailstorfer, in your artwork "C 111" you have converted a Mercedes-Benz 190 E (W 201) into a unique version of the legendary Mercedes-Benz C 111 experimental vehicle – your dream car from your childhood days. How did you do that? And what fascinates you so much about the C 111?
As a child, I was struck by the C 111's otherness. I didn't know any car that looked like it. When my grandfather left me his 190 E, it was clear to me what I wanted to do with the car: With an angle grinder, a welding machine and only a rough plan, I then set to work on replicating my dream car.
How did you come up with the idea for the artwork? Could you actually drive the car?
I've wanted to drive the C 111 since I was a kid. This thought has never left me. The idea took shape when I drove my grandfather's 190 E to Stuttgart and Mercedes-Benz made it possible for me to measure the original C 111. I even drove my C 111 on the Mercedes factory grounds after it was finished.
Parts of cars, but also other everyday objects, regularly appear in your installations and sculptures. You often disassemble and contort the objects and assemble them into new forms and functions. Why are you interested in this working method? What is the driving force behind your art?
I repeatedly use everyday materials or objects of technical origin in my works. Reassembled and removed from their actual context, their meaning changes, which brings with it a certain poetry. In my art, it is important for me to take a playful approach, which – as in the C 111 work – also has a certain inherent humour.
In the campaign for this year's Fashion Festival d'Hyères, your artwork is showcased alongside the fashion designs of the Sustainability Prize finalists. How do art and fashion go together in your opinion?
Art and fashion are disciplines that have been growing closer together for many years. A clear distinction is often no longer possible. The dissolution of fixed artistic genres allows new creative paths to be taken.
Both your "C 111" and the looks of the young designers are inspired by the idea of creating something new through upcycling. What role do recycling and upcycling play in your artistic thinking and work? And what does sustainability mean to you?
I have always been interested in dealing with objects that have a history. Reworking them and transferring them into a new context are questions I have been dealing with a lot since my studies. Recycling and upcycling as well as sustainability are terms that have been associated with my work over time. The fact that the debate on sustainability is being conducted so publicly today shows how important it is to make conscious use of the resources we have at our disposal.