Review: Car-Stoppers

Artzine, Temporary Services, 36 pgs, Half Letter Press,, $8

Of this we are certain: the pictures that comprise nearly the entire Car-Stoppers zine by Temporary Services are meant to be art. I’m less certain about why the residents who created these car-stoppers were so limited in their imagination. Even the name of these photographed objects is without frills: “car-stoppers” stop cars, full stop. Truth in advertising.

The introduction explains the need for car-stoppers on the corners of Chicago’s narrow, residential alleys. They prevent cars from bumping into garages and pipes. Services explains that these protective objects are necessary given the alley’s value as a low-key modern day agora. Save for this two-page prologue, the space between the covers is filled with photos of these little pipe savers. We are afforded just enough context to make these pics truly intriguing.

I’ve interpreted the minutiae among car-stoppers to reveal whether the owner is kindhearted or crabby. If painted yellow, the car-stopper alerts the driver that they might accidentally back into the building. And we wouldn’t want that. If red, there’s an assumption that a devil-may-care driver will intentionally careen into it otherwise. It’s a colour that silently promises to apprehend and prosecute. The pillars have no use for aesthetics beyond a diagonally-striped sticker posing as government authority. Stolen-valour infrastructure. The concrete bump on the ground screams, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to startle you, but take care not to crash into the corner and nick your lovely paint job.”

I do wish the car-stoppers themselves were treated as art and am surprised at the lack of creativity rendered. I see chips and scrapes but not much graffiti or stickers. I wonder whether any of them at least dress up for Halloween. Within is only a fraction of those that Service has photographed, which leads me to believe that many more are even less vibrant.

Temporary Services is committed to being one of the proletariat. An art collective of the people. But I think if they’re being honest, they might admit that these photos invite us to judge the folks with car-stoppers. I’m a fan of art that features gritty, everyday scenes which is why I keep going back to this zine. Or maybe I’m haunted by the mystery of the single car-stopper photo taken in Fort Worth, Indiana…


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