interviews, texts, etc.


uneditd interview: for Il Manifesto - Italian newspaper

Arianna Di Genova (Il Manifesto)

    Puoi spiegare la tua "passione" per la bicicletta? Come nasce?

    Can you explain your passion for bicycles. Where does it come from ?

Rainer Ganahl:

The bicycle was my first (driving) machine I possessed and which I could use by myself. It was also my first birthday present that I really remember. Hence since my early childhood, I have been using bicycles for play and transportation. I bicycled even in places like Paris in the 1980s and New York in the early 1990s where nobody went on bicycles because these cities were not bicycle friendly at the time. Whether a city is bicycle friendly or unfriendly depends on urban politics.

Arianna Di Genova

    La bicicletta è un mezzo "politico" per te. Perché?

    Why is the bicylce for you a political means of transportation?

Rainer Ganahl:

Whether we reserve our city streets for car traffic only like it is the case here in many US cities or whether we want to share them with pedestrians and bicyclists is the result of a dominating political will. And when we destroy public transportation, (like in Los Angeles), build only highways and go to war for cheap fuel for our cars then transportation becomes a political issue. All this became very apparent after 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

Arianna Di Genova

    Come proponi di realizzare le tue città "fifty-fifty", metà per macchine e metà per ciclisti?

    How do you want to implement your 50 % bikeway - car lane rule ?

Rainer Ganahl:

Well, it takes the same courage as it took politicians when they first implemented the so-called pedestrian zones in the 1960s and 1970s banning traffic from inner cities in certain countries in Europe. To my big surprise Italy already banns most of the traffic in large parts of their historic centers and reserves driving only for essential traffic and people residing there. From these restrictions the jump to a 50 % bike – car sharing is not that enormous anymore. On top of it, you could do it with relatively little money by simple marking streets and place physical dividers so people are not infringing on biking territory.

Take the example of Bolzano, where you find some streets already with a clear 50 % devision without stealing space from pedestrians. If a mayor has the courage to follow through on such a rule he/she would observe within a short period of time a complete change in traffic behavior. It would save fuel, money, nerves, time, clean air and even lives due to less severe traffic accidents. The feeling of the streets will change and be more inviting to outdoor activities of all sorts. Biking will become quickly fashionable since it is chic and healthy. You also need to back it up with an easy and free (or cheep) bike renting system that spreads throughout towns as we have see them now in many cities. Paris pioneered it and has been very successful.

The more we accommodate bicycling (including electric bicycling) the more we will see them in use and the car traffic will diminish. Making driving more difficult through extra taxation of inner city driving and not just parking (London), lower speed limits that don't exceed bicycle velocity by much, no driving zones (Italian's inner city rules) and extra restrictions or fees on one person occupancy cars (New York City bridge crossing fee structure) could complement the popularization and facilitation of bike riding as a viable, easy and respected means of transportation. The city has to also make parking for bicyclists easy, free and protected. Some of these precious car parking spots can easily be converted for bicyclists and their needs – bike racks and weather protection. A city could also require that companies with more than 20 employees provide their own bicycle parking spots. The city could even install service points with free pressurized air and encourage car service stations and bike shops to provide it for free, something that is an unspoken rule in New York City where every bike shop offers free pressurized air for cyclist in the streets.

Arianna Di Genova

    E' vero che stai attraversando varie zone del mondo andando contromano? Puoi raccontarci le tue nuove azioni e itinerari?

    Is it true that you go accross the world riding against traffic ? Can you tell me your new stuff and itineraries.

Rainer Ganahl:

As a cyclist I try to follow rules but as an artist I break them. For a period of eight years I made various art works that consisted of riding in the middle of the street against the traffic without holding the handlebar filming. I always picked significant stretches of a city and marked them by doing this. For example, in Rome I linked the Vatican with the Plazza della Republica picking a day when the Pope was working and shown on a big screen. Needless to say, that stretch marked not only a significant axis of this really bicylce-unfriendly town but also two different forms of government. In Damascus I just went all across town at a time when George W. Bush named Syria part of his “Axis of Evil” and conservative US TV networks showed the map with a cross hair asking the viewer “Who is next” during the initial phase of these today still ongoing wars in Iraq and Afganistan. My video images showed not only the peaceful daily live of a traffic jammed Damascus but also the handlebar mimicking most parts of a crosshair. In Berlin, I drove from Karl Marx Allee towards and through the Brandenburger Gate, reflecting on the East West opening of 1989. In Moscow my ride linked the Lenin Monument, October Square, with the Lenin Mausoleum, Red Square where security personal deflated my bicycle tires in the middle of the winter. I had to walk for a long time in order to get help. Since these bike rides were inherently dangerous for not using more direct language, about 3 years ago I decided to stop doing them before my son Edgar was born. I made only a little exception to that rule when filming “I wanna be Chinese – Dinghi,e-bicycles from China,” a film made in Bologna with the rewritten song “Tu voi far l'Americano.” There I needed a bit of action and drove dangerously against on coming cars and down steep staircases for better film footage.

Arianna Di Genova

    Bicicletta significa anche una società eco-sostenibile, senza più petrolio e ricatti dei paesi produttori di petrolio?

    Does the bicycle stand for a self-sustaining society independent of oil and oil producing countries ?

Rainer Ganahl:

Yes it does exactly that as already indicated indirectly above. But it also stands for a new cultural history that sees in bicycles not an economic or social barrier but a sign of freedom and healthy living. The bicycle opened up many revolutions and dreams when it appeared in the 19th century and for my understanding this utopian and revolutionary quality hasn't been lost. I want to point out that it is not only about ecological self-sustainability but also about our health and the problem of obesity which can soon not be ignored anymore – in particular here in the USA. The bicycle is only one indicator for rethinking our life style, our consumptions, our pleasures, our work and our cities. Daily (open air) fresh food markets – in many places completely disappeared and replaced by large supermarket chains on city borders – local food productions and general carbon food print reflexions should all be part of a cultural paradigm that not only counts on bicycle but on the understanding that the future lies in renewable energy production and mostly electric cars and machines.

Arianna Di Genova

Cosa pensi del ciclismo invece come sport?

What are you thinking of cycling as sport ?

Rainer Ganahl:

My relationship to sport is similar to that of vacation. As an artist I love my work and don't go on vacation. For me, my life already seems to be some kind of permanent vacation or privileged dream, so I skip holidays or sundays. Since I cross town by bicycle and pedal throughout all borrows of this large city I don't really need sport as a separate activity. The reality of cycling as sport is in most cases just a successful sales pitch towards people who end up with fancy fast and expensive bicycles they barely use. I observe this in our building's bike parking site filled with precious and costly high performance bicycles which are nearly all in the state they were bought in.

Of course, I'm not talking about those activities that opened up profitable secretive sectors of the pharma-industrial complex with their professional races and spectacular doping scandals. The doping problem I find very interesting since it had already been addressed by the biggest biker of the 19th century, the writer and pataphysicist Alfred Jarry, inventor of PERPETUAL MOTION FOOD, a performance enhancing drug and conceptual forerunner of Pfizer's blue medical super drugs. Alfred Jarry has been a big inspiration for me and should be given a monstrous statue made of bicycles, pills and even less permitting things. This PERPETUAL MOTION FOOD sculpture could be a rallying place for non-official (even clandestine) amateur non-corporate bike races as they are now becoming fashionable again.

Rainer Ganahl, New York, March 2011



see: bike stuff