BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA: When art meets innovation

The Group presents an art and innovation wedding at the Frieze LA exhibition in the form of BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA. The only vehicle in its kind combines the color change technology that BMW has developed with the artistic narrative of South African artist Esther Mahlangu. The artistic creation, with parts of attached membrane that can be electrophoreated, incorporates the latest development in color change technology for vehicle surfaces in collaboration with E Ink. BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA celebrated its world premiere at the opening of the exhibition on February 29. The modern work refers to the BMW Art Car designed by Mahlangu in 1991. “The BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA honors the history of the BMW brand and continues the tradition of our global cultural commitment in a unique way. It combines art and design through progressive technology. Here, technology itself becomes art,” comments Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of the BMW Group Design department. In 1991, Mahlangu designed the 12th BMW Art Car, which was based on a BMW 525i, and thus became the first woman and first African artist to complete such a venture. “Her art inspired me years ago, when the idea of changing colors in a car was just an abstract concept in my mind,” says Stella Clarke, Researcher Engineer in the Open Innovation department at BMW Group. “Now, being able to implement this idea and working with Esther Mahlangu, is absolutely surreal”. The characteristic colors and geometric patterns of 88-year-old artist are ideal to bring the innovative Flow technology to life in BMW i5. The flexibility of electrophoretic color changes transforms pure electric sedan into a dynamic work of art. “It is exciting for me to see how modern technology can expand my art and make it accessible to an entirely new audience,” states Mahlangu. Mahlangu’s art meets the cutting edge technology In BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA, which was named after Mahlangu’s eldest son, membrane sections are applied that can be electrophoreted, with two strips from each placed on the roof, the hood and the back, as well as on the side of the vehicle. As with a digital reader, there are many million microcapsules on each E Ink membrane. The structure and arrangement of the colour particles containing can be changed by applying an electrical voltage. This allows the creation of Mahlangu’s art characteristics and patterns in constantly changing compositions. Moving images are also accompanied by an equally excellent sound, in exclusive composition of Renzo Vitale, Creative Director in the field BMW Group sound, for BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA. To combine the BMW brand’s soundscape with that of the South African Ndebele culture, Vitale used sequences from Mahlangu’s voice, as well as the sound of paint brushes. These were combined with sounds produced by the coloured pencils used in the BMW design studio and the acoustic signal heard as feedback when handling BMW i5 touch screen. Thus a sound mix was created that starts gently at the beginning of any color change and increases in intensity as animation evolves. For the exact representation of every detail of the elaborate decoration, BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA carries 1,349 membrane parts, each of which can be independently controlled. Laser technology used to cut the membrane and design electronic control developed in collaboration with E Ink. The adaptation of technology for curved surfaces, as well as planned animations, all evolved internally within the BMW Group. In general, color change technology is rapidly developing. BMW iX Flow with E Ink presented in 2022 had the ability to change from white to black with the push of a button. Only a year later followed the first multi-color application. The 240 membrane segments applied to the original BMW i Vision Dee were able to depict up to 32 colors. This last phase of development now allows the use of even more colors and patterns. At the same time, the membrane strips are more durable, facilitating a potential use of technology in mass production. However, currently, BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA will remain unique in its kind. Honor tax on a pioneer artist and her work Esther Mahlangu, an internationally acclaimed artist, is known for the Ndebelle paintings, who originally symbolized important events or festivities. Mahlangu distanced the designs from their original symbolism and first transferred them to canvas, carpets and everyday objects, giving them a timelessness. BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA is now reinterpreting that artistic language. Presenting this branded car at the Frieze LA exhibition, BMW continues its long collaboration with the famous visual exhibition. At the same time, the BMW Art Car which formed the basis for this tribute will also be exhibited in South Africa for the first time in over 30 years as part of the exhibition hosted by the South African Iziko Museums and the BMW Group in Cape Town entitled “Then I Knew I Was Good at Painting”: Esther Mahlangu. A retrospective report. The exhibition, which will last until 11 August 2024, honors the work of one of South Africa’s most influential artists and ambassadors. In Los Angeles, BMW will again present Frieze Music in collaboration with Frieze. As of 2019, the two partners’ joint initiative has brought together a large group of musicians at the crossroads of meeting music with art. The return of the event to Los Angeles was celebrated with a live performance of Sudan Archives at the Hammer Museum.

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