Cardboard art: giant ghetto blaster rocks Zurich

A huge cardboard boombox has been raising eyebrows in the Swiss capital - we speak to the artist behind it.

German artist Bartek Elsner has been making something of a reputation for himself by creating eye-catching, extra-life-sized objects made of cardboard. His latest effort in this area was a commission for Mini Schweiz, as a promotion for Zurich’s International Radio Festival.

His giant old-school ghetto blaster stood in various locations to attract curious passers-by, who were then handed flyers about the event. Because the ghetto blaster had to be moved to different locations, it had to be portable - which in this case meant re-buildable - while remaining stable.

Bartek Elsner’s giant ghetto blaster needed to be moved to different locations over different days...

"The ghetto blaster is by far the biggest paper-based project I’ve done so far,” says Elsner, who has also created tree branches, a CCTV camera and a fireplace from cardboard. “But it’s based on simple geometric shapes, so it wasn’t too complicated to make. The most complex project was the real-sized tree: irregular, organic shapes can be really difficult.”

...and had to be shipped to Zurich to begin with, so the model for Mini Schweiz had to be totally re-buildable

Although Elsner is familiar with 3D design software, he says he didn’t use any to plan the design of the ghetto blaster. “I don’t like using it for the paper stuff so much,” he admits. “It can be handy for visualising an idea or to get an idea of proportions, but trying to copy a 3D model isn’t fun. The boombox was based on two or three sketches, and it took me a bit more than two weeks.”

Boombox is the largest paper-based project that Elsner has ever worked on

So how did the public react to the radio when they realised it was actually made of cardboard? “Well, no one has complained so far,” he smiles.

This article was originally published in Computer Arts issue 209.

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