Wander through the streets of Zagreb, and you may accidentally stumble across Marge Simpson, Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain. No, we’re not talking hallucinations – we’re talking Pimp My Pump.
Pimp My Pump is a collective of six Croatian artists who work to transform old water pumps into works of art. The pumps can be found all over the city –in residential courtyards, in creepy abandoned industrial areas, and in market places and squares. If you spend just a short amount of time walking the streets of Zagreb you will undoubtedly find at least one pimped-out pump.
The PmP collective are all locals, although they don’t rule out the possibility of working with international artists. Many well-known Croatian graffiti artists have participated as guests, such as Lonac, Modul, and Svenki. They draw inspiration from pop culture, Zagreb landmarks and symbols of their childhoods. Music and art are obvious favourites – Lou Reed, Joey Ramone, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali – as well as films such as Star Wars, The Warriors and the Croatian film “Who Sings, Thinks No Evil”
The pumps have the air of a mischievous child gone wild, turning city props into intriguing toys, but the project actually enjoys the support of the City of Zagreb and the local water authority. Do the residents like them? It’s hard to say. Many of the pumps are still functioning and people actually use them. But a Bruce Lee pump may be wasted on an elderly resident of Vidov?ica.
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend plotted out a course and took us on a tour of some pumps on our way to find Uranus. At one point we got lost and asked a local resident if he knew where we could find the Dragon pump. He had no idea, but that didn’t stop him from walking around with us over the surrounding streets in search of it. “Everyone has a pump,” he said. “I can show you pumps in everybody’s yard.” And he did. But painted pumps? “In Zagreb?” he said, thinking hard. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen any.” And yet, just at the end of his street is a pump painted with shamrocks. It’s funny what you will and won’t notice in your own neighbourhood.
And that, perhaps, is the point of the whole project. These curious relics of a different era, now rarely used, are such a part of the landscape that no one sees them anymore. If a pump painted as a rose, or Darth Vader, or the Zagreb Lotrš?ak Tower can make you notice the world a little more closely, imagine what else you might see? But eventually the painted pumps become, themselves, part of the unnoticed landscape, fading and blending back into their surroundings.
On the 16th and 17th of May, the Pimp My Pump collective will be holding an art exhibition in collaboration with Croatia Railways at the main train station. The exhibition will be held in four train carriages standing alongside Platform 6, including a Buffet wagon, and promises to be a unique art experience. If you find yourself in Zagreb next weekend – who knows? – you should get along and check it out.
For more information and photos, check out the Pimp my Pump Facebook page