Traffic jam

Hanif Kureshi’s NH8 uses 3,000 Hot Wheels toy cars to create a beautiful, “flow-y” installation


Right from his school days, artist Hanif Kureshi has been interested in typography. From when he graduated from art school, to his current work in design, he’s kept his passion for typefaces alive by engaging in projects as diverse as street art collaboration and a website dedicated to hand-painted street signs. Kureshi along with Rutva Trivedi, a colleague at his Delhi-based studio Guerrilla Art & Design, are two of the four artists who worked on the Indian entry to the ongoing London Biennale—Chakraview, an installation curated by Rajashree Pathy of the India Design Forum.

But just before leaving for London, Kureshi focused on a different element of the street: traffic jams. The artist, who works on his commercial projects through his studio, created multiple pieces for Facebook’s Gurgaon office. One of them, displayed prominently at this office, is called NH8 and uses 3,000 Hot Wheels toy cars to create a beautiful, “flow-y” installation.

While “flow-y” sounds at odds with a die-cast toy car, the way the cars are placed—widely spaced on the walls, flowing into a close bottleneck where two walls join—makes for a cascading visual. Quite a contrast to the reactions a real traffic jam evokes, especially during the rains in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), but just what you might observe in an aerial view of one.

“Facebook’s brief for its Gurgaon office was to bring out something with an immediate, local context. That’s the broader principle the company works with. We always tend to talk about traffic while commuting within NCR, so I came up with that. But the idea was to bring the chaos and beauty together,” says Kureshi. Given the bright colours of Hot Wheels cars, the installation happily pops out against the bare white wall. Kureshi has also designed spaces at over 10 Social cafe outlets all over India, bringing striking typography and art into the mix.

Kureshi hopes to bring this exposure for a greater integration into the field of design. “We are trying to blur boundaries between art and design by working on pieces that could easily be considered one of either, or both,” he says.

The idea, he says, is to expand the boundaries of each in some way, keeping a reference to the local context, but aiming for international appeal and quality.

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