Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bike Parts, Sculpture and Cyborgs

Yesterday I received bike parts for my SRAM pART Project sculpture. I plan to make work for a show in New York this coming fall. The exhibition will be of sculpture and collage made by artists using bike parts and other media. The finished works will be shown, judged and auctioned with proceeds benefiting World Bicycle Relief, a charity that helps get bikes to people in underdeveloped countries to try to connect them to education, health care and other opportunities. 

Though I sort of fell into the project, agreeing to it before I really knew what it was, it sounds like a good cause and an interesting premise for the project. I am further intrigued because the project requirements are a big push in a direction I wanted to inch towards in my work, namely, incorporation of mixed media. The exhibition requires that sculptures be in any media but they must include a minimum of 25 SRAM parts (provided by SRAM pART Project). The exhibition does not limit artistic expression, subject, intent or even technique and we can modify the bike parts provided.

I agreed to participate last week and the parts are already here. Though it appears someone was trying to eat the box, the parts all seem to be in good shape. A few are used or refurbished but most seem brand new. Unfortunately each part was packed in as many layers of plastic as could be managed. Each piece was individually bagged and taped shut and every four pieces were bagged in another bag. For a group focused on a social justice cause, they don't appear particularly worried about sustainability as it relates to excessive packaging.

About half an hour later, I finally was able to extricate all the pieces from their plastic wraps. The prospectus said they would send 100 pieces. I haven't counted, but it sure is a lot of stuff to work with. There appear to be four of most items, which include parts for gears, shifters, handles, frame and other unidentifiable (to me) bits. There are a few smaller items, like the circles in yellow and red at the bottom right of the picture, of which I have more than 4 in a variety of colors. There are a lot of possibilities, but I was surprised how large some of the pieces are, given that we are limited to 20" in any direction for sculpture.

I immediately made some sprigs off of some of the parts so that I can fire them and use the sprigs in my sculpture. I have a few ideas and plans, but I believe I need to do some firing and testing first. I stayed up late last night just thinking about how I could incorporate 25 (or more) pieces and still maintain my own approach to the project--I don't want to just piece these items together on their own in an assemblage, there would be no point in having me involved in the project if the work were somehow very different in execution from "my work." 

The conceptual problem I am encountering is that I often use organic, soft, swelling forms and repetitive textures. I can only get so repetitive if I only have four of ever item (hence the sprigs) and hard mechanical forms aren't soft and organic. I am thinking steampunk and science fiction in my approach here, modifying my familiar organic forms with mechanical machine parts. I recently finished listening to Cinder by Marissa Meyer. The story is a loose retelling of Cinderella, but what I really enjoyed was the descriptions of the science fiction society of the future and the use of machinery and technology in humans. The title character is a cyborg with a too-small mechanical foot and a variety of other well-described bodily alterations. In my SRAM project, I am thinking cyborg sea vegetation. I'll post on my progress as soon as I make some.

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