BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA world premiere at Frieze Los Angeles

In 1991, she was the first woman and African artist to design a BMW Art Car—it was the 12th vehicle in the BMW Art Car series, based on a BMW 525i. Now Esther Mahlangu’s contribution is being reinterpreted at this year’s Frieze Los Angeles art fair.

»It fascinates me to see how modern technology expands my art and makes it accessible to a completely new audience,« says Esther Mahlangu, who is considered one of South Africa’s most important artists. She received international acclaim for her Ndebele paintings, which she removed from the traditional context of (house) wall painting and transferred for the first time to canvases, carpets or everyday objects—including the 12th BMW Art Car created in 1991.

The BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA has now been created as a contemporary homage to this and certainly also as a deliberate reference to the current collaboration with the New York artist with African roots, Julie Mehretu, who is designing the 20th BMW Art Car. As part of the renowned Frieze Los Angeles art fair, the BMW Group has now presented a new interpretation of the vehicle using an innovative fusion of art and innovation.

The BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA, which takes its name from Esther Mahlangu’s first son, features electrically animated film segments that combine the changing color technology developed by BMW with the artist’s characteristic visual language. The latest development stage of the color change technology for vehicle surfaces developed in cooperation with E Ink is thus impressively presented—the versatility of these electrophoretic color changes turns the all-electric sedan into a dynamic work of art.

The animatable film segments extend in two strips each over the roof, hood and rear as well as over the sides of the vehicle. Similar to an e-book reader, there are several million microcapsules in each E-ink film. The color particles contained in them are changed in their structure and arrangement by electrical voltage. The BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA is equipped with 1349 foil segments, each of which can be controlled individually, in order to display the complex ornamentation in true detail. Thanks to the innovative flow technology, the 88-year-old artist’s characteristic colors and geometric patterns can be depicted in ever-changing compositions.

The animations are accompanied by an equally extraordinary sound by Renzo Vitale, Creative Director Sound at the BMW Group. To unite the sound worlds of the BMW brand and the South African Ndebele culture, he used sound sequences of Esther Mahlangu’s voice and the sound of the feathers she used for drawing. They are combined with the sounds produced by colored pencils in the BMW design studio and the acoustic signal that can be heard as feedback when operating the touch display in the BMW i5. The result is a sound mixture that is gently intoned at the beginning of each color change and becomes more and more intense as the animation progresses.

»The BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA is a tribute to the history of the BMW brand and continues the story of our global cultural commitment in a special way. It combines art and design through progressive technology. Here, technology itself becomes art,« summarizes Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of Design BMW Group. [Red.]