An artist-designed autonomous vehicle for personal rail travel. An Arts Catalyst / AND commission.


HeHe’s public art interventions are internationally renowned, from ‘Nuage Vert’, highlighting factory emissions with interactive laser light to 'Is there is a Horizon in the Deepwater', a miniaturised global disaster scenario satirising popular responses to ecological issues. Their ‘Toy Emissions’ video also lampooned American SUV (sports utility vehicle) culture and its critics at the same time.

HeHe (Heiko Hansen and Helen Evans) have been working on the ‘Train Project’ for a number of years, criticising the car as the only option for autonomous transport. They propose personal rail travel as a temporary imaginary prototype taking the problem of locomotion as a starting point. The notion of personal rail travel has been explored as an alternative to collective transportation since the 1930s, Bruno Latour for example, reflected on the failure of Aramis (Agencement en Rames Automatisées de Modules Indépendants dans les Stations), France's ambitious attempt to develop a personal rapid transit system in his book 'Aramis, or the Love of Technology'.

 

The ‘Train Project’ has seen HeHe develop temporary autonomous vehicles in the form of performances on unused or abandoned rail tracks. The AND Festival 2012 commission 'M-blem' follows interventions in Istanbul – ‘Tapis Volant’, a battery-powered flying carpet, ‘H Line’ on New York’s abandoned High-Line and ‘Petite Ceinture’ on the little belt that encircles Paris. HeHe’s new vehicle celebrates the birthplace of the world’s first recognisable modern railway - the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) - which opened in 1830.

Inspired by AB Clayton's painting of the inaugural journey of the L&MR which illustrates a series of small open-topped passenger carriages on the track outside Manchester's Liverpool Road station, HeHe will run their vehicle 'M-blem' on this historic track, now part of Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. In a participatory project mixing past and future, HeHe will present their mobile, light-weight, electric wheel-set along with solar charging stations, platform, signs and passenger vehicle referencing the original carriages but using modern materials for AND Festival visitors and passengers.