As vintage cars from the early 20th century kept rolling into the Market Square of Helsinki yesterday’s summer evening, I had this eerie feeling of being present in a special moment of recreating history. The automobiles that were stacked like in an exhibition display on the square and the dressed up audience together created an experience that could have existed a few decades ago. The scene was from an american mid-west town and not some northern scandinavian market square! The fact that these automobile hot-rods of the yesteryears were only for the show and the supporting cast of humans attired in the rockabilly style made the whole event a sort of a performance for me. I am sure, the community of the hot-rod owners and supporting cast did not think the same. For them, it was the coming together of friends and families who shared or continue sharing a past that is no longer viable.
So what made this community gathering of antique car owners and enthusiasts a museum?
First of all, the cars on display themselves were antiques, artifacts from a distant oil age, when the automobile reigned supreme. Secondly, the supporting cast of the antique car owners and their associates were dressed in spirit of their times, thus creating a surreal atmosphere that rarely exists normally on market square. A time frozen fashion along with a festive spirit with performance music made it all the more an appealing outdoor museum. The ambience was that of a long lost community making themselves seen and heard in our modern times. Thirdly, there were lessons to be learnt, aesthetics to be discussed, mechanics to be examined for the visitors and tourists, who in this case were the museum visitors. The artifacts were not enclosed in vitrine making them more accessible to the visitors. There was no curator as such, but more like a community participated curation. This community of antique car owners were themselves the organizers, the jurists and the learners. I noticed that they helped each other with lessons in automobile mechanics, informed the local citizens about the cars and hung out with each other in good cheer. So the question that arose in mind, was how can such a community be relevant to society, to our current energy crisis and how could it raise questions of sustainability? Should this instant community museum have a pedagogical effect on the visitors and tourists? We obviously can see how this gas-guzzling automobiles are no longer relevant in today’s society. It is almost criminal to drive daily to work on one of those beasts! Can we learn something from this? Will we also be strutting around our high energy intensive appliances on this market square a century from now?