Trans Am Totem removed from Vancouver's northeast False Creek neighbourhood

The 11,300-kilogram sculpture is a testament to car culture and a changing environment

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      Marcus Bowcott and Helene Aspinall's monument to car culture is no longer visible to SkyTrain passengers travelling between Main Street–Science World and Stadium-Chinatown stations.

      That's because the city has dismantled Trans Am Totem, an 11,300-kilogram sculpture unveiled in 2015 as part of Vancouver Biennale.

      Birds have soiled the 10-metre sculpture, which features five vehicles on top of a trunk of an old-growth cedar tree. So the City of Vancouver dismantled the public-art project so it can be cleaned.

      From top to bottom, the vehicles are a Pontiac Trans Am, BMW 7 Series, Honda Civic, Volkswagen Golf Mk1 Cabriolet, and Mercedez-Benz, which were all donated by a local scrapyard.

      The city hopes to find a new location for Trans Am Totem by next summer.

      In the past, residents of the nearby Citygate condo project have complained about the sculpture.

      Bowcott, on the other hand, said in the 2015 videotaped interview below that "the place is really integral to the piece."

      "The piece itself refers to the history of the site," Bowcott noted. "This used to be tidal flats that was surrounded by old-growth forests." 

      Then it was converted to an industrial site and any cedar trees in the area were removed.

      “In a certain sense I’m saying, ‘Let’s realize we’re on the horns of a dilemma here.’ " Bowcott said. "We’re fascinated by speed, we’re fascinated by consumer objects, and this consumerism has an effect on our nature." 

      Video: Watch an inteview with artist Marcus Bowcott recorded in 2015 as the sculpture was being erected.

      The Vancouver Biennale website posted the following description of Trans Am Totem:

      “In his artworks Marcus Bowcott arranges what remains of our throw-away consumer culture. As a metaphor, his work uncovers an unpleasant darkness in our society, revealing the emotional bankruptcy that results from our dependence on cheap consumer goods which are almost always produced by unseen people on other continents. His beautifully twisting sculptures attempt to find something redeeming in the detritus remaining from cycles of consumer desire and planned obsolescence.”

      The artwork was saved in 2018, thanks to a $250,000 donation by lululemon athletica founder Chip Wilson and and his wife, Shannon Wilson. It enabled Vancouver Biennale to purchas the sculpture and donate it to the City of Vancouver for 10 years.

      Video: Watch a time-lapse video of the construction of Trans Am Totem.
      Marcus Bowcott