In the Museum of Modern Art’s Marina Abramović show is a black Citroen Model H van. The boxy corrugated metal vehicle is filled with video equipment and photographs. Sound and video loops run repeatedly inside the vehicle. It is part of a piece titled Relation in Movement and dated 1977. Labels explain that the vehicle was used by the artist and her lover/collaborator, named Ulay, in travels during which the pair put on performances. “One year was spent living with the Aborigines in the Central Australian desert.”
Not long before spotting it I saw another H, on the edge of Chinatown. Both have the Citroen logo on their grille. And both seem to come out of the 1940s. The vehicle was first produced in 1947 and stayed in production for 34 years, with 473,289 made in all.
The vehicle uses corrugated steel for its walls, like a Ford Trimotor or Junkers J-52 transport. It has the engine of a Citroen Traction Avant car, the first widely produced front wheel drive automobile. Used a bakery delivery truck or ice cream stand on wheels, it is a forerunner of current models like the Dodge Sprinter or Ford Transit Connect. André Citroën got started in business with a novel type of gear and the double V or twin chevron shape of the company logo represent gear teeth.