Rethinking Speed

by Matthew Evans Designer Martin Meier recently resurrected the ghosts of the Lamborghini Countach with a series of furniture objects inspired by the revolutionary 1974 Italian sports car. The series is epithetly titled „In Loving Memory,” drawing our attention to the car’s indispensable influence while emphasizing the appropriate tones of mourning. The Countach was a symbol of the potency and senseless vigor of design. I’m thinking of when Farrah Fawcett (R.I.P) hightails it in a black Countach in the 1981 film The Cannonball Run. She stops the car, playfully steps out in a bright red jumper and heels, and spray paints an „X” over the 55 m.p.h. speed limit sign. As she speeds off laughing, you realize just how much the car, with its Stealth Bomber look, could whip up pure sensationalism. 

Today, however, that effect is scant. Lamborghini was once the most emblematic car for boundlessness with its design that seemed to come from nowhere but promised to take you everywhere: first appearing in 1963, it had no historical precedent to follow like its competitors Ferrari and Porsche, and it used that leverage to create a product that radiated possibility. But beneath Lamborghini’s matchless and robust confidence, there lies a long and hustled story of corporate mergers and acquisitions that includes bankruptcy and four different companies, each struggling to cope with the financial impracticalities of the machine. Earlier this year, a prominent American Lamborghini dealer had to part with a brand new Murcielago LP640 for a mere $60,000 (43,000 Euro). It’s normal market value? $387,000 (276,500 Euro). Somehow that lucky new owner could never muscle the playful gamesmanship of Fawcett – reduced-rate sensationalism for all parties. But if there’s any way to hang onto the exhilarations of Lamborghini, and particularly the Countach, it might very well be through Meier’s designs. He’s fabricated several chairs that recall the car’s extreme aesthetic without seeming gawdy. One takes its cue from the Countach’s notorious trapezoidal panels, while the cantilevered forms in several of the chairs appear updated instead of outdated with their winking reference to the car’s trademark „scissor” doors.
When I spoke with Meier about the work, which is currently on view at Berlin’s Appel Gallery, he ruminated over a toy model of the Countach he had as a child: „When I played with it, it never seemed practical or convenient. It was just simply culture.” Now, years after that „culture” has dwindled, we may finally be able to rediscover traces of its extravagance in Meier’s designs, which, ironically enough, are very practical and convenient.   ◊

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