Blog Post: Camille Yvert

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I don't know what it does,

but it does it magnificently


16 February 2023

The following is a text by Camille Yvert (NC 2019) on their research at the New Contemporaries residency at the British School at Rome.

Following my residency, I am collaborating with the musician and car acoustic designer, Jacopo Nogi, on the sound work I don’t know what it does, but it does it magnificiently that will be rendered in a Ferrari Purosangue using the technique of auralization - a procedure used in car design to stimulate a virtual sound environment. The text below Retractable Goddess is the last chapter of the script for the work.

The car is a powerful figure of imagination, a canonical object of desire bridging the technical and the emotional. It acts like a second skin, a utopian extension of our anatomy, intimately linked to a global injunction of mobility. A figure of metamorphosis, it evokes the myth of the centaur, the alliance of human intelligence and bodily power capable of freeing humans from their primary condition.

In Rome, I have explored the myths associated with our collective imagination of the car as object, and more specifically the analogy that exists between the automobile industry and the female body. My aim in this project is to converge the liquid properties of metal as a representation of femininity in the car’s technology. More generally, I am interested in how the fear of being determined by external elements can lead us to integrate these elements into our bodies, starting a process of metamorphosis.

Found video (Youtube: Rolls Royce Revival: Restoring a Paint Job Damaged by a Hand Car Wash)

Retractable Goddess

From his windscreen, the horizon scrolls away and peels off as he cuts into it, finally crumbling and disappearing entirely.

At 130 km/h, from his 30-degree angle of view, only one scene remains fixed: at the front of the hood, the centre of gravity to his visual field, she paves the way for him. And as the ribbon of asphalt repeats itself, it’s towards her that his gaze concentrates.

Curved under the weight of docility, yet appearing foreign to any form of gravity, the drape of her dress resembles both waves and ropes that hold her in a semi-crucifixion pose.

Her arms, extending backwards, cloth flowing, adorn her wings, seemingly able to open impenetrable passages. Balancing on inclined knees, she holds her pose, ready to embark upon the asphalt, breaking-in the roads. From these limbs, like an opening oyster, a face emerges as the hidden pearl. Imperturbable, one reads in her eyes the dilatation of the moment, infinity fixed in reality.

Her stainless steel coating reflects the landscapes that pass through her. At the crossroads of the liquid world and the solid world, she embodies all goddesses: flight and youth frozen in time, an emblem of a new experience of speed, transforming the idea of something that inspires terror into a myth inspiring desire.

Like the silhouette of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, she ends her flight to land at the front of the ship. Headless woman, nothing-but-body, she is the figurehead, the mermaid pinned to the front of the boat. A generic female figure, her presence is a curse, she is banned from the deck, demoted to face the violence of the waves alone. Not an ode to her qualities but rather a warning of the dangers she inspires. Sirens, navigators of dark waters, shake us because they come from within. Related to ambulance sirens, which in the form of an alarm, awaken a feeling of insecurity.

Left: found video (Youtube: Polishing - spirit of the ecstasy. Rolls Royce. Detailing garage) Right: sea views from Evia, Greece

Her retractable anti-theft system alerts prowlers to her private ownership, ensuring the exclusive enjoyment of her possessor. Known as ‘The spirit of ecstasy’, she is the ornamental ambassador of the Rolls Royce. Her form arouses the covetousness of collectors, drawn to her timeless morbidity, forever fixed in the passing of time. She is the liquid genie set in an alloy of 82.73mm, polished and re-polished, from the lamp she emerges.

In contact with heat, I imagine her regaining her kinetic capabilities. Metal, a conductive material intimately linked to industry and technology, embodies mutation. As she liquefies, her drape turns fluid, extending in motion. She wrinkles and reclaims the features of passing time. In a last momentum, she stands up. What was once her apparel now resembles the crest of the waves. Freed from all rigidity, she turns to face the solid carcass. Her volume now deployed confronts the hood that served as her base.

From his cocoon, the driver takes distance from his own skin. Uncleared waters he has still to explore. Liquid sensations hidden under the porous solidity of the epidermis. Seeing the liquefied metal, he recalls the surface of the sea, alloy of origin, magnetic object of uncertainty.

Now as volatile as elusive, it is in the lead ritual as sorceress that she throws herself as one thread into the waters to finally shatter there, giving a new form to interpretation. She is the present moment and the future vision. Expanding in matter she froths in appearance. It is in the form of sea foam that she now materialises, on the surface sponging away the toxic fumes she is composed of. Singular, diluted in a complex fluid of circulation, each of her cavities gives her observer an initiatory passage, an aptitude for deformation, a capacity of transmission.

Left: found image: The Spirit of Ecstasy, black chrome, details; Right: 3D scan of melted lead metal after it was plunged into water.