The Rolls Royce is the most sacred symbol of luxury cars in the world, with only a handful produced each month and all custom designed to client specifications. It is the purest mark of wealth and extravagance, an extreme show of the power of capitalism.
Asulin’s new installation – “Ark” – is a hybrid creation merging the Ark of the Covenant and a Rolls Royce in the form of a two car fronts positioned back-to-back (similar to the car in the film “Kompot Na’alyim” with Yehuda Barkan and Ezra Shem Tov).
The front of a Rolls Royce is designed to impress. For over a century now, the grille bars have been arranged by hand, appearing like the façade of a Greek temple as they support the slanted “roof”, upon which stands the iconic figure of Nike, the goddess of victory. This figurine is called the “Spirit of Ecstasy”, and in this exhibition version it appears an enlarged.
Moreover, the connection of two fronts creates a structure that has two Greek temple facades at each end, precisely echoing the symmetry that typifies such edifices. Although in our collective memory we now think of them as stone buildings, originally they were adorned with gold. Indeed, the entire car seems dipped in gold-colored chrome, exaggeratingly reflecting the light. The fog lights are elongated tubes that shine brightly along the side panels, appearing like handles just calling out to be picked up so that the car may be carried. It would be easy to mistake the car for the Ark of the Covenant, the gilded vessel embellished with two cherubim, reminiscent of the guardians of the gateway to Eden with their flaming swords at ready. Their role is not to condense its limits, but to protect it, to defend the Covenant. The Ark has been attributed with supernatural qualities, and Asulin permeates these qualities into the car he has created. And yet, all this wealth of gold is not designed to preserve the intrinsic pact between material and spiritual, as evidenced by the deities of victory as they face outward – unlike the angels of the Ark that face inward. The Rolls Royce is the embodiment of sanctified secularity, the essence of the capitalist juggernaut as it absorbs and processes religious texts so that they may be adapted to its main purpose, meaning endlessly generating more profit.
Asulins’s Rolls Royce is pimped out with lowered suspension, a shortened roof, and hubcaps replaced with those of a racing vehicle. It lies very low to the ground. But the fabled Rolls was never intended to be improved upon, enhanced or “pimpafied” in any way, as this would truly be an act of sacrilege. It is this deviation from the proper order that directs our thoughts to the self-improvement and self-enhancement so typical of DIY reality shows. Such shows present junk being transformed into luxury goods as if a quick profit is at our fingertips in the piles of trash that heap up around us, the unpalatable husk (and macerated product) of contemporary consumption culture.
DIY programs feed off our need to climb the social ladder, a desire becoming ever-more desperate in a reality where communities are fragmenting and the support they provided dissipating, where the cost of living has reached impossible heights, and when life has become a matter of daily survival. These shows serve as our fantasies, but instead of providing some escape from reality they seem to cement and almost consecrate it. Fantasy becomes more important than true life, and as life become more unbearable, so does the fantasy become increasingly absurd (such as Ferrari calendars in Fiat repair shops). The packaging has become more important than its contents.
In Asulin’s works, the spiritual is tamped down and the material immortalized. The hollow shells and empty packaging manifest in a vulgar and extroverted masculine identity. The “golden” machismo aesthetic is a tangible characteristic of his work, and this glimpse into the world of men’s accessories indicates an excessive aesthetic which is a frantic element of the “artificial self”: an impressive, glamorous and impenetrable mask hiding a masculinity is perpetual crisis.