Installation at the exhibition "Reservoir XIII - Rohstoff-Treibstoff-Kunststoff"
Large Reservoir, Berlin, 2004
car tire, green light, picture/texttablet
250 x 300 x 300 cm
On 14 October 1930 Pater Josef Bitumen set off on a journey though the jungles of Ecuador equipped with a car and a chauffeur. His mission was to convert the indigenous population of the jungle to the Christian faith. On 28 October 1930, Pater Josef was forced to break off his mission. The following entry is recorded in his travel diaries: "... the situation was very threatening, as the savages aimed their blowguns at us. Their womenfolk emitted blood-curdling screams and leapt up and down in such an exalted manner that we almost lost our senses. Then, as suddenly as they had come, they disappeared... When we regained consciousness and resolved to continue our journey, we found that for some inexplicable reason, the tyres of our car had gone missing...." In the years that followed Ecuador attracted an ever increasing number of adventurers and gold diggers. Woodcutters are hollowing out the country and oil companies are polluting the land, forcing the indigenous population of the jungles to go ever deeper into the forest.The advance of western civilisation brought a steadily increasing number of motor cars into the country. The figures from the customs authority of Guayaquil from 1972 not only show the rapid increase in the number of cars imported into Ecuador, but also the disproportionately high order volumes for reserve tyres.
In 1976, ethnologists commissioned by an oil company to investigate the structures and organisation of the indigenous communities in the rain forest made an unusual discovery. In the lowlands of Pastazas, they came upon the deserted huts of the Tagaeri (a tribe that has rejected all contacts to the outside world to the present day).The dwellings of the Tagaeri were not made of woven leaves, as is the custom, but from stacked car tyres. This fact explains Pater Bitumen’s unusual experience in 1930, which forced him to break off his missionary activities, and the large quantities of car tyres registered at the Guayaquil customs authority in 1972.