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art of war

The Belly Tank Project

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Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

CONCEIVED…

over a shared bottle of red wine, the Belly Tank Project is an example of what is possible when one product designer, Axel Kleinschmidt, and one economic adviser, Hartmut H. Hölter, set out to transform a defunct piece of military history. The seed was first sown when designer Axel stumbled across a set of aviation fuel tanks online. Often referred to as belly tanks, these missile-shaped containers attach auxiliary fuel to the belly of military planes. Plentiful quantities post-WWII inspired their re-use as hot-rod cars, but Axel and Hartmut had another incarnation in mind as they set out on a 15-hour journey across Germany to procure four tanks one freezing January morning…

 

Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

AXEL & HARTMUT’S…

specific tanks were part of a briefly produced series manufactured for military Tornado planes by German Aerospace company Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm in the late 1970s. The tanks presented in a lackluster military green – a finish that belied the pair’s ambitious vision. Several months, and more than 140 work hours later, a single Belly Tank emerged transformed – a true work of art born of a product of war.

 

Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

THE TRANSFORMATION…

began with a shortening of the tank to 4 meters in length.This was followed by more than 50 hours of polishing – mostly wet sanding by hand – until the tank had achieved a sufficient level of mirror shine. To create the platform, feet were crafted from wood and welded steel then connected with telescopic steel legs clad in solid ash wood. An elegant pair of handles were made out of bent steel tubes and aluminum-base connectors. As for the saddle – it was commissioned to a professional saddle maker then lined in felt and attached to the tank using a highly specialized procedure.

 

Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

Belly Tank Project by Hartmut H Holter and Axel Kleinschmidt

 

THOUGH…

the approximate 6-month wrangle with one very “willful” belly tank proved a laborious task, in the late summer of 2015 Axel and Hartmut debuted what they like to refer to as the “most peaceful and beautiful pommel horse in the world”. The pair prefers to allow viewers their own interpretations of the work… but the symbolism is difficult to miss, as in many ways the belly tank retains its original function – supporting the flight of man – this time in a celebration of life, athleticism, and art; a poignant commentary on how we choose to wield the capabilities and tools at our disposal and the tenuous line between life and death, art and war.

 

Belly Tank Project on Facebook & Instagram

Photography © Christian Engels, © Florian Friche.

 

 

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