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Bikes mangled for art's sake

Sculpture "a visual metaphor for the human experience"...

It’s the kind of “art” that will pain many cyclists, not so much for its aesthetic qualities – or lack thereof – as for its choice of raw material.

To many of a pedal-powered persuasion, a 20m high tower made up of 340 bicycles dubbed the Cyclisk, recently erected in Santa Rosa, California, will seem like a waste of cycling hardware bordering on the criminal.

It’s certainly the kind of installation that prompts the age-old question: what is art? The authorities in Santa Rosa apparently view it as such, and consider the work an appropriate way for a Nissan dealership to fulfil a requirement for local businesses to commission and place art in public spaces.

Created by artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector, the pair explained the artwork during the proposal stage, thus: “Made of recycled bicycle gears, rims, frames and hoops, [Cyclisk] will be a series of intersecting rhythms – a visual metaphor for the human experience – technology and the humanities – history and the future – individual and collective. Evoking a ‘world of possibilities,’ it will be a work communicating to all walks of life – all ages, relevant for years to come....”

Alternatively it is a waste of potentially serviceable bikes and bike parts that have been destroyed for little, if any, practical benefit, let alone artistic merit.

The Santa Rosa civic website describes the obelisk-shaped structure as being made out of “recycled” bicycles. Some might argue the bikes have simply been squashed into a different shape and won’t be truly recycled until they have been melted down and made into something useful. Whatever the semantics of recycling, the opportunity to fix them up or use them for spare parts to create something that could actually be ridden is obviously long gone.

Despite what looks to be the perfectly serviceable nature of some of the frames, the work’s creators appear to have anticipated a negative reaction and, without specifying exactly how, claim the tower actually boosts Santa Rosa’s pro-cycling credentials.

"Collecting unusable parts from the debris piles of nonprofit community bike projects has proven to be a win-win; community bike DIY places are thrilled unusable parts are not becoming land fill and the City is psyched the sculpture will solidify Santa Rosa as bike-friendly," said Spector.

So, the Cyclisk is either a fantastic way of recycling old bikes into “a visual metaphor for the human experience” or alternatively a symptom of a society that places little value on bikes and a waste of the time and energy that went into creating them in the first place. It’s all in the eye of the beholder so here’s an opportunity to channel your inner Brian Sewell. Give us your critique below.

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