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Carbon Miles

Car-bon Miles is a redundant old car that I converted to pedal-power for the UK’s first Art Car Parade in September 2007. Since then it has appeared at various parades, eco festivals, eco car rallies and car free events. It’s an old East German, two-stroke powered Trabant, famous for being the most horribly polluting cars ever made. I have turned that on its head by removing the engine and building in two bicycles to make this one the least polluting. 

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I’m highlighting the problems caused by increasing vehicle usage and our personal carbon footprints. It also exposes the issue of what we should do with old cars. The Trabant is particularly difficult to dispose of as its body panels are not steel but a plastic made from recycled cotton and resin. Thousands of them lie abandoned around Eastern Europe. Inventing new uses or upcycling them is one solution to the problem.

Through a bizarre quirk of fate, the very first Trabant I found had the original DDR licence plates that began with the letters ‘ART’. This car began life long before global warming but saw it become a frightening reality. Using humour and spectacle to attract attention to the issue is my way of getting the public to consider the impact of cars on our environment and our health. I’m demonstrating in a daft but spectacular way that there are alternative ways to get around besides driving.

As in many of my works I use my own body as a tool. It is essentially both sculpture and performance, in which I make no small sacrifice (it still weighs half a tonne) to heft this lump around. If you demonstrate to people your own commitment through personal actions they are more likely to be sympathetic to the cause. Nobody likes being told what to do but they don’t mind so much following somebody’s lead.

As well as the car being repurposed, I have used reclaimed or scrap materials such as the hessian sacking wherever possible and a solar panel to power the lights for safety. It is possibly the only completely carbon neutral car.

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