Throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn there are hundreds of totally useless fire alarm boxes. They sit on street corners about four feet high, eight inches square, painted red and occasionally silver. They are all regularly maintained to look good, even if they don’t actually work. Years ago, when the city started to take them down, people freaked. They said the city was fucking over poor people who didn’t have phones in their apartments to call the fire department. So now they sit useless: just architecture, relics, little bonsai skyscrapers. Monuments to futility, bureaucracy and the placebo effect.
They are also well anchored into the concrete and, with sufficient impact, very malleable. Artist Miklos Serrai learned that the hard way and now he can’t stop. On any given night he finishes a bottle of vodka, straps a iron crossbar apparatus to his front bumper, and rams them with his truck. Why? Because it’s beautiful. We had a drink with Serrai in Brooklyn and asked him about the 70+ boxes he has destroyed.
VICE: Some people would say that this is just vandalism. Miklos: That is destruction of property, right? Well, yeah, of course, but that’s a pretty narrow way to look at it. It’s also ritualistic, aesthetic, thematic, varied, public.
Not as important as other things. I like that they are not in a mausoleum. They haven’t been to the taxidermist to be stuffed and mounted on the wall. They’re in people’s way, they’re in the street and hundreds of people deal with them every day, if only to walk around them. There is no headset tour guide to brainwash you, although I thought of making one. It is not so precious.
How did this start?
I used to drive demolition derby. When I first got my license back home (it is a country that does not exist anymore), I begged my friends to be in a car crash with me, they always said no. I finally got in a real car accident last year. Someone hit me. I got out of the car and thanked him. I shook his hand.
But more. It is protest. Against politics and lies. These boxes are everywhere. They’re red. They’re communist. They’re like a doll to stop the baby from crying. It’s corrupt. I get very angry.
I saw one of these in town that’s not on your list. It was on B and 3rd (showed him a Polaroid of it).
That one’s not bad. But there are taxi drivers, truck drivers, drunks, who are copying my work. I am like Kostabi now I guess. They’re very beautiful, yes, but they are fakes.