Bikes + Innovation: How Art and Cycling Intersect

The versatility and beauty of the bikes we ride – and the environments we ride in – often spur on the creative process of art and design.

The versatility and beauty of the bikes we ride – and the environments we ride in – often spur on the creative process of art and design. This month we look at how bikes and art intersect.

Art That Challenges Us

When we think of challenging art, we (or at least I) think of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Damien Hirst, and their contemporaries. I have always loved the furniture of designer Ron Arad who has also created a new way to look at bicycle wheel construction. His “Two Nuns Bicycle” project uses wheels made of sprung steel that are a little larger than the average bike wheel but give the wheels a slight cushion effect.

That looks pretty cool, but I do wonder how it handles real roads and potholes (I guess that situation may not have been tested, but hey, it’s art!).

Ai Weiwei, the Chinese contemporary artist and activist, is well known for shaking things up. He is never scared of taking on the Chinese government on democracy and human rights and stands fast on those issues. Earlier this year, he created a monumental installation of interconnected bicycle frames in the riverside courtyard of Palazzo Franchetti in Venice.

This is the latest installation in his “Forever Bicycles” series where he grouped 1,179 stainless steel bicycle frames that together create modular layers of geometric shapes. It’s a tribute and celebration of the Forever cycle brand that has been mass-manufacturing bicycles in Shanghai since 1940. It also plays on the concept of assembling and copying in China. For me, it feels familiar and connective within a community of bike riders. You want to climb in and feel the warmth. A womb made of bicycles, if you will. Definitely visually arresting.

Accessible Art

While we can go and see installations and one-off art bikes, often we want to own part of the art as well. I really love Thomas Yang’s prints of modern architectural landmarks made by printing with bicycle tire treads. He unites his love of cycling and creativity with his “100 copies” series. By painting the tire’s rubber with black ink, the surface becomes the brush on which intricate and complex textures can be imprinted onto the canvas. Yang has made pictures of China’s Forbidden City, London Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, and New York’s Empire State Building.

Street Art

Bikes are meant for riding around on streets (well, most of them), so it seems natural to mix artistic display with this environment. The Glowing Van Gogh Bicycle Path, made of thousands of twinkling stones, is an epic display of creativity on a bike path that amazes you while you ride it. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde has created a glow-in-the-dark cycle path illuminated with patterns based on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “The Starry Night” as part of his Smart Highways project. The goal is to make smart roads by using light, energy, and road signs that interact with the traffic situation. Glowing Lines are lines that charge during the day and glow at night for around eight hours. The first road has been realized, and will be further launched internationally.

Rolling Art

Monkey Light, by Monkeylectric who have had two projects successfully funded on Kickstarter and have raised over $280K, create images and animations within your bicycle wheels. Hit the streets, turn the system on and you have a light display that fills the bike wheel from both sides.

The possibilities of creating, and even being, art using your bike is limitless. Time to get creative!

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