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Porto Garage

Part of a series of photos and texts that was published as The Good Life in 2014.

I have to confess that I snapped this display on the ramp of an underground car park in Porto with my iPhone, it was either that or leave the image behind. Where to begin with this masterful display of plastic oil canisters, car batteries, emergency triangles, number plates and spare hub-caps? The display and its location were such a strong combination that we guessed we’d come across an installation, part of an art project in town maybe? But gradually it became clear that this was an innocent arrangement of things for sale at the car park. I can hear the voice of the car park’s owner discussing the idea with his manager in their neon-lit office. Couldn’t we make up a display of the stuff we sell? How are our customers to know they can get a new battery from us if they’re piled up behind your desk? And the manager instructing the garage mechanic to find somewhere to put some shelves up. Nothing special so far, but look at the arrangement. The shelves themselves appear oddly supported at their centres until you realise they must be two shelves joined in the middle. The symmetry of the display starts well until, reaching the bottom shelf, our self-taught display-artist realises he’s forgotten the batteries and returning with 3 of them, simply adds them to the bottom shelf nearest to his arrival, shifting out alternating oil canisters to make space for them. So far so good, but to the mechanic’s displeasure the manager pins up a no-smoking sign, and a couple of others right in the middle of his masterpiece.