Transformers are back! Earlier this year there was a motion picture, retrovied from the 80s cartoon series. Accompanied with a very nice transformation sound, particular automotive transportation devices could transform themselves into a robot with some kind of emotional intelligence as well as emotional defects. But the robot-disguised-as-car idea was also shown in commercials. French carmaker Citroën used it to put some boogie in there wind tunnel derivates. The result: a car turned into a clever made computer animation. So helas, no Transformers at your car dealer.

Until March 2007 that was, when one specific dealership got one. On the 42 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, Citroën unveiled the Totemobile. A shiny million-dollar-plus robotic sculpture that’s sure to drive potential customers to just to their Champs-Élysées showroom. The venerable French automaker gave free conceptual rein to artist Chico MacMurtrie and his team at Brooklyn’s Amorphic Robot Works. “During my first visit to Citroën’s Champs-Élysées showroom (C42), I was very excited about the possibilities offered by the height and windows in the architecture. I clearly saw an image of a totem growing from a car to great heights.

MacMurtrie wasted little time in picking as his subject the company’s iconic DS, which he’d long admired as “the original lowrider” because of its revolutionary hydraulic suspension system: “I chose the Citroën DS, not because of Citroën’s sponsorship, but because it is an icon for European cars, and I felt that the live qualities it represented (hydraulic suspensions, organic curvature, and mechanical ingenuity) were emblematic of the time. I also chose the DS because it influenced my Mexican-American low-rider car culture. A low-rider was used by the Latin culture as a medium of expression… converting classic cars with hydraulic suspensions, utilizing elaborate paint jobs, became an art form.”

But his version of the 1963 DS (déesse: means goddess) does more than lift a few inches off the ground. In a feat of telescoping contortionism, the 5-ton sculpture’s aluminium and inflatable parts unfurl, rising to a full height of 20 meters: “The totem is a frequent reference in my work. I have created many totems as sculptures; as they grow upward, images and narratives are exposed.”

About 45 people worked on the project, shaping, welding, programming, and fine-tuning the contraption and its more than 50 servomotors and linear actuators. On YouTube there is a short film about the transformation of the DS: The Totemobile is scheduled to transform hourly for at least the next four year.

Chico MacMurtrie (1961)

Totemobile (2007)

Superused: Citroën DS, mark 1 (1963)

C42 – Showroom Citroën, 42 avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, France

Sources : (picture)

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Toon Verberg