Building a Mercedes V12 Engine Sculpture from 53 Different Materials

Being an artist means that you don’t have limits in your mind to what you can create. Even if there are political borders on the maps, artists and creators don’t give them any notice. Eric van Hove is one of these artists, who has lived in many different countries and has been influenced by many cultures throughout all his life. All of his sculptures and works are based on multi-cultural composition.

Hove’s works are different. He does not work by himself, he likes to collaborate with many artisans from different cultures and create unique art pieces by using engineering techniques, as well.

eric-van-hove-v12-laraki18[Image source: EricVanHove]

Handmade Mercedes-Benz V12 engine

His V12 Laraki project was created with many different craftsmen from around the world. Moroccan company Laraki, which was established by its owner and designer Abdeslam Laraki, started to design extremely luxurious sports cars and yachts in 1999. Laraki designed the original V12, used in many Mercedes-Benz models, of which this sculpture was based off of.

eric-van-hove-v12-laraki23[Image source: EricVanHove]

Eric van Hove was really into the Moroccan culture and art scene, so he in plunged into the country to create his fascinating work, a V12 Laraki engine. He says:

“When 15 people gathered over months to reassemble 465 very different parts of the most complicated Mercedes engine, in terms of the amount of engineering involved, well, that’s nuts! We gathered trust through the engine. It is through that faith that this atelier can exist. So seven months into a nine-month project, I realized that I had changed the lives of these people because they will not go back to making chairs after they have made a V12 engine. There is a real market share on that side of activity and they can really make a living out of it while saving their heritage in the meantime.”

eric-van-hove-v12-laraki25[Image source: EricVanHove]

35 artisans, 53 materials

Van Hove has collaborated with 35 artisans to create his V12 engine, made by 53 different and mostly organic materials. As we learn from his website, the art piece was crafted from middle atlas white cedar wood, high Atlas red cedar wood, walnut wood, lemon wood, orange wood, ebony wood of Macassar, mahogany wood, and thuya wood, among many other kinds of woods from around the area.

eric-van-hove-v12-laraki22[Image source: EricVanHove]

eric-van-hove-v12-laraki21[Image source: EricVanHove]

According to his interview with Reundevonfreunden, the artist says that he started to think about the engine in 2005, when he was staying with a blacksmith in the outskirts of Dakar. Telling his story in this words:

“I didn’t really get into engines because I like cars; I’m not really interested in mechanics. But there are some really strong poetical forces behind the mechanics that are beautiful in their shape and system. When a car gets old in Europe, after around 300,000 kilometers, it ends up in Africa, where it runs as a taxi for maybe another million kilometers.”

eric-van-hove-v12-laraki6[Image source: EricVanHove]

“Then, when it really cannot go further, blacksmiths take the engines and make huge piles that they melt down to try to get back the aluminum. They use an old rudimentary casting technique to turn these engines into things like spoons and kitchenware, which go back into the market and are used to feed children.”

eric-van-hove-v12-laraki8[Image source: EricVanHove]

“I was mesmerized by this. The techniques and materials they use say so much about the history of the continent itself. One guy might do something in one country with one technique, and that technique actually comes from a neighboring country, but because of a war, or because they had to move, they now know this technique.”

eric-van-hove-v12-laraki13[Image source: EricVanHove]

“Then the technique gets adapted to a new material that they find elsewhere. The result of these things is that if I slowly take apart an engine and reassemble it, I could attempt to represent Africa faithfully into an object, which is an impossible object somehow. It’s a chunk of time, of socioeconomic history.”

eric-van-hove-v12-laraki16[Image source: EricVanHove]

Eric van Hove’s work was shown at the 5th Marrakech Biennale and many other museums and exhibitions. Hove also presented the piece at TEDx Marrakech. If you like to listen about his project from himself, you can check out the video below.

Share This!