back to exhibition of Paul Petro Contemporary Arts, 2004



In my second exhibition at Paul Petro I have grouped a series works in various media around the bicycle. The bicycle is not only my main vehicle of transportation but also my urban eyeglass – an extension of my visual and aural organs. As such it acts as an urban social interface. While working with my dreams over an 8 month period I came to the surprising realization that I was constantly dreaming of my bicycle in relation to the comprehension of my external world. I've been a bicycle rider since early childhood. My earliest childhood memories include a 4-wheel bicycle birthday present that was later reduced to 2 wheels. I have never been able to stay in one place for long without a bicylce, including in Tokyo where I was harassed daily by the police who presumed me to be a bicycle thief.

Bicycles have complex social realities and have come to symbolize some kind of utopian green-friendly mobility. Bicycles were among the first products that were outsourced to China and other low cost producers, where bicycling means being poor and being confronted with the exploding class of new car owners. As a child in the 1960s my father gave me a new bicycle with which he purchased from a truck driver who had imported it privately from Prague. At the time Praq was behind the iron curtain and this had been my first conscious esposure to the inequalities of econoic orders which today constitute the backbone of globalisation. Most likely that bicycle was probably diverted from the production line of the former soviet style economy. This would become the first bicycle stolen from me in rural alpine Austria. After I moved to New York many years later (and where I became used to having my bicycles stolen) I was sometimes forced to purchased bicycles for next to nothing from people I presumed to be bicycle thieves.

In some countries poverty can make people with bicycles look priveledged. I observed some of that while I was in Tirana where the streets are mostly filled with luxury – mostly Mercedes, BMW - cars of which it is claimed that 60 % are stolen from Western Europe by different mafia. The ink pen drawing "In Poor Albania, Mercedes Rules Road, by Daniel Simpson, The New York Times, 10 November 2002, 2003" addresses this issues of powerty that later on inspired me to make the video “Bicycling Tirana. ”This video is an 8-minute bike ride pedalling against the traffic in the center of Tiranawith a camera in hand, violating traffic laws and risking some accident. During the entire ride, I am not touching the steering wheel, provoking an additional element of danger to the filming/performance on two wheels. The capital of the poorest country in Europe has at its center a complex of buildings built in the early 20th century by the former Italian colonizers.

E-mail error, Monday, December 1, 2003 7:40 PM, 2004 is a pencil drawing from my E-mail error series that uses my outgoing emails as a basis for acribic copying. Given the context of this show I'm using a story about one of my bicycle incidents in the streets of New York emailed to my Toronto dealer Paul Petro. This story itself shows how a bicycle can get you into trouble in a highly contested aggressive urban center where different velocities meet and compete on different wheels.

For a mail art piece "use a bicycle"2004 sent from New York City before the show, I have used postcards that show and commemoratie the World Trade Center. In stead of the usual US postal stamps I glued self made stamps from drawings of mine that are based on the terminology characterizing the Bush admininistration: 9/11, Al Queda, Operation Enduring Freedom, Homeland Security, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Shock and Awe, Axis of Evil and others. The postcards simply display the address and the words "use a bicycle" – words that can be read and interpreted in a variety of ways. This work with it legal ambivalence is playing with the notion of symbolic civil disobidience. To my relief, with the exception of one all cards sent arrived.

The two "news paintings", Reuters World News Higlights 1900 GMT, 1/9/04, 2004,and, bicycle bomb, 1/6/04, 2004 bring a reality to the notion of the bicylce that is shocking and traumatic: bicyle bombigs that occured only a couple of months ago. I noticed these bombings in the news and incuded these news items in my "more news" series. This series is made up of realistic paintings on canvas of news content taken from mainstream US news web sites, and all other periferal information including advertisments. The bicycle is usually associated with non aggression and environmental friendliness. In these paintings, bicycles are involved in the most horrific and unsetteling crimes that parade our news horrizons in these days. The (suicide) bombings that have become so frequent in the last couple of years are associated with issues of religious fundamentalism, the Middle East, national self-dertermination and oil. The interpretion and representation of this theatrics of death and total distruction in the media is as contested as the complexity of the political, economic, social, religiouis, historical and ideological problems that create the context for these incomprehensible and self-annihilating acts of absolute violence. As it is the case with all of my news releated art works, I only reproduce mains stream news reports as they are fludding us, the active and passive consumers of media. I see this freeze framing of news content that changes on the internet by the second and on the news stand by the day in the tradition of European history paintings. It is ironic tha the taste of t "Old Europe"'s for history paintings partially coincidedwith the onset of its imperialist interests and colonial actions.

Since I have the bicycle as my axis of reference I also include two works on papers from my study series "My first 500 Hours Basic Arabic" and "My second 500 Hours Basic Chinese" that show somewhere in their midst the word bicycle: Basic Arabic, (study sheet), New York 1/29/04, 2004, Basic Chinese, (study sheet), New York 2/19/04, 2004

The show is rounded out with a video entitled “bicycling” that shows me with a person sitting on my steering wheel circling on 51st street and 8th avenue in New York. It is a game that plays with New York’s traffic as well as with the street markings and the street crossing pedestrians. It shows some of the famous beautiful indifference of New Yorkers towards anything going on in their streets. This street behavior is in stark contrast to the one in most Western European cities where I get regularly fined for disobeying traffic rules. I even remember having being aggressively attacked by car driver that knocked me down from my bicycle an drove away, because, as he indicated, I had previously crossed a red light. In other incidents, people left their cars and chased me. Its no wonder then, that I dream of bicycles.


WORKLIST:, Reuters World News Higlights 1900 GMT, 1/9/04, 2004

acrylic paint on canvas, certificate of authenticity, apprx. 88 x 62 inches (220 cm x 160 cm), bicycle bomb, 1/6/04, 2004

acrylic paint on canvas, certificate of authenticity, apprx. 84 x 64 inches (220 cm x 160 cm)

In Poor Albania, Mercedes Rules Road, by Daniel Simpson, The New York Times, 10 November 2002, 2003

paper, certificate of authenticity,19 x 23 3/4 4 inches (220 cm x 160 cm)

Bicycling Tirana, 2003

video approx. 8 min

E-mail error, Monday, December 1, 2003, 7:40 PM

pencil drawing, graphite on paper, 110 x 75 cm

Basic Chinese, (study sheet),2/19/04, 2004

work on paper, 9 x 12 inches

Basic Arabic, (study sheet), 1/29/04, 2004

work on paper, 9 x 12 inches

Bicycling, 2004

use a bicycle, mail art project with self made stamps, 2004

16 postcards (8 sent one and 8 empty one for reference) - certificate of authenticity

these postcards were sent in the mail and have arrived - one with the stamp'homeland security' has not made it yet through the mail system.