Robert Wittendorp
Takes place as a road-trip
12 May 2012



Symphorophilia: car crash sexual fetishism. Or a paraphilia in which sexual arousal hinges on staging and watching a disaster such as a traffic accidents.

Paraphilia (para: beside | –philia: friendship/love): a sexuoerotic embellishment of, or alternative to the official, ideological norm (as described by John Money, 1990).

“It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.”
— Michel Foucault in Human Nature: Justice versus Power, Chomsky-Foucault Debate (1971)

A desire. A car crash. A test case.

Parking spaces belong to the domain of public space but are subject to strict governmental and municipal regulations. Car possession and use are regulated in order to maintain the standard of living conditions in the bigger urban agglomerations like Amsterdam. The car itself depicts the opposite, namely that of status symbol as well as erotic capital: “you are what you drive”, presupposing a specific social or economic power position within society. This discrepancy between politics and power vanishes in the car crash, which accommodates one’s fantasies about speed, power, violence and sexuality. As Ballard writes in Crash (1973): “After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.” Symphorophilia investigates what happens during and after a car crash. Is it a form of civil disobedience? Will it be harnessed into the state apparatus once more or is there an unmasking, a naked truth, that follows the climax? 

Image: Robert Wittendorp, Symphorophilia, 2012


Robert Wittendorp’s practice takes from different disciplines, from graphic design to fine arts, from philosophy to science and technology. Recently, his research has focused on the idea of the conceived world and its inherent power structures. A new form of religion, led by economic and capitalist interests is being underscored and confirmed everyday, creating a disciplinary framework for behaviour and social interaction. In his work Robert questions: “We as (western) human ‘beings’ live in this conceived world. Everything we do stems from that what we (as humans) have devised (conceived). The question is to what extent this imagined (devised/conceived) world relates to the real world.”

Robert Wittendorp (1975, the Netherlands) lives and works in Rotterdam. He is currently a student at the Fine Arts department of maHKU – Utrecht Graduate School of Visual Art and Design. He holds bachelors in Graphic and Illustrative Design from Sint Lucas Antwerp, in Graphic and Typographic Desing from Royal Academy of Art, The Hague and in Philosophy from Erasmus University Rotterdam.