The Borderbend Arts Collective has presented two "Bicycles & the Arts" events -- during the Chicago Calling Arts Festival in 2010 and last year. Borderbend is co-presenting a third "Bicycles & the Arts" event, in partnership with Working Bikes Cooperative. That event happens on September 28, during the Seventh Annual Chicago Calling Arts Festival.
Bicycles and the arts have commingled a lot for more than a century -- such as in film, literature, sculpture, and music. Here are some highlights which span more than a century. Alfred Jarry was a French writer who wrote the play Ubu Roi and came up with the concept of pataphysics; he was an avid bicyclist, and bikes appear in many of his writings. Another French artist named Marcel Duchamp created a sculpture entitled Bicycle Wheel in 1913; that sculpture was among Duchamp's many readymades which have changed the way people think about art. Several decades later, Italian filmmaker Vittorio De Sica directed The Bicycle Thief (1948), an iconic Italian film which "works as a sentimental study of a father and son, a historical document, a social statement, and a record of one of the century's most influential film movements." In 1960, Swiss artist Jean Tinguely unveiled a kinetic sculptureentitled Homage to New York, which included dozens of bicycle wheels and other parts, and whichfell apart during a 27-minute performance. Have you seen the video of a 22-year-old Frank Zappa teaching Steve Allen how to play a bicycle, followed by a performance with musical bicycles and the accompaniment of the Steve Allen Show orchestra?
Today you can find examples of intersections between bicycles and art, in Chicago and around the world. Recently a collective in Rogers Park proposed that 15 bike racks be constructed, and that proposal won funding during the 49th Ward's participatory funding initiative; those bike racks are currently under construction. If you've ever seen or participated in a Critical Mass event, you've probably seen some interesting art bikes, including tall bikes. As you travel along North Avenue in the Wicker Park / Bucktown neighborhood, you will pass a colorful bicycle mounted on the side of a building, at the corner of North and Wolcott Avenues. That bicycle, which hangs above the entrance of Rapid Transit Cyclechop, has fans in the bike wheel spokes, so the wheels are often spinning in the air. Local artist Ronnie LoBello built that bicycle 15 years ago.
Working Bikes Cooperative has several amazing bike artworks created by Matt Weber and others. Steven Lane curates an annual winter bike art show; that's always an exciting show to look forward to.
Examples of art bikes and bicycle art abound elsewhere here in the U.S. Artistically designed bike racks are being constructed in Rogers Park, and David Byrne has designed bike racks which have been installed in New York City. A group in Minneapolis has organized several annual Bike Art shows, and Tall Bike Posse in California organizes Art Bike Build events and bike art shows.Bicycle Inter-Community Action & Salvage in Tucson offers workshops where you can make inner tube wallets, tire belts, mobiles, sculptures, and jewelry out of recycled bike parts. In 2010 I saw Gabriel Orozco's Four Bicycles (There Is Always One Direction) at the MoMA, amazing.
photo of artworks on display during the "Bicycles & the Arts" event at Happy Dog Gallery (10.1.2010)
above: photos from the "Bicycles & the Arts" event during the 2010 Chicago Calling Arts Festival
Globetrotters can find plenty of examples of intersections between the arts and bicycles around the world. The Dekochari (Japanese art bike) is a unique phenomenon; here're some interesting pictures. Kunstrad (Art Cycling) competitions are happening in Europe.
Stay tuned for updates regarding the next "Bicycles & the Arts" event.
-- Dan Godston