Monday, August 22, 2011

Paint It Good: On Bicycles Becoming Art


Once upon a time I was enrolled in art school and we had this visiting professor - a new media guy - whose sulky catchphrase was "painting always wins." By this he meant that painting, being the traditional form of artistic expression, enjoys an unfair advantage over less conventional art forms in that it is more readily accepted as "art" by the general public - even if it is not. Those students who were not painters nodded sagely every time he said this, whispering "patriarchal" and "privileged" while throwing scornful sideways glances at their painterly peers. Whereas those students who were painters shrugged dismissively: "Well of course he's going to say that; he's a new media guy who hates painters." Naturally, both groups were right, but this is the sort of debate that is taken very seriously in art schools. I hadn't thought about Professor Sulky New Media Guy in some time - until I came across a link to this article on TreeHugger.

My understanding of the story is like this: A woman in Toronto decided to decorate a bicycle that was abandoned, locked up to a bike rack. She painted it neon orange and placed potted flowers in the basket. The city of Toronto then ticketed the bicycle, indicating that it was tagged for removal as a result of being abandoned and now clearly unridable. The woman and her friends decided to protest this and formed a collective, seeking out other abandoned bicycles and painting them neon colours as well. They received publicity. Eventually, the city stopped ticketing the bikes and reluctantly agreed to treat the project as public art. It is called The Good Bike Project and it has been applauded by cycling and environmental blogs for "defying" the city of Toronto.

Call me a disloyal artist if you will. Tell me I lack appreciation for symbolism. Accuse me of being no fun. Fine. But I look at these pictures of spraypainted bikes locked up to bike racks and I think: "Someone could have used that bicycle. Someone could have used that bike rack." I've read the article a couple of times and have browsed the project's website, but I don't get what exactly it is protesting and what exactly it is trying to say. It seems to me that in removing blatantly abandoned bicycles, the city of Toronto was actually doing cyclists a service by freeing up bike racks and other potential lock-up spots. Of course it would be great if those abandoned bikes could be rescued, then refurbished and donated to those who need them. But to turn useful objects into decorations, while also taking away parking spaces from cyclists? I don't know. Spraypainting a bicycle so as to render it unridable is not recycling, and perhaps what irks me is that this word is being used to describe the Good Bike Project. Refurbishing a bicycle is recycling, and I would love to see that become the de facto fate of abandoned bikes in cities throughout the world.

Whether spraypainting abandoned bicycles is art is not my call. And perhaps it's ironic that in the back of my mind echoes the sulky professor's complaint that painting always wins. "Paint it and they will applaud," he'd say - to warn, I now realise, rather than to mock.

50 comments:

  1. Ah that makes sense now, thanks for taking the time to explain this... I do agree that recycling the bicycles would have been my preffered method but they can still be recycled when the project is over?

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  2. Well it breaks up the streetscape and potentially makes the urban landscape more attractive, BUT it is using a bike rack, rather than being cemented in as a bollard to stop cars parking on the pavement/sidewalk. Perhaps it should have been converted into a bollard/bike rack?

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  3. There's a spray painted bike in my neck of the woods which is a different color every time I see it, and seems to be gathering accessories at an alarming rate. I have yet to see its owner, but I'm hoping to, because this is clearly not an "art installation"(it's locked different places at different times) and as a matter of fact is not particularly aesthetically pleasing. I suspect it's more of an anti- theft strategy.

    I agree with you that if people want to place permanent art objects in a public space they should have to follow the same guidelines you would if you were putting a Richard Serra- in other words, make official arrangements for putting it in a public place, or find a place on private property for it. If it's outsider art and ephemeral installation, you should expect the city to take it down if it's a nuisance, just as if you created a 6' teddy bear out of cheese on the sidewalk.

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  4. Anon - Looking through the website, it appears that a good half of the bikes, at least, are attached to designated bike racks. The others are attached to what could have served as much needed bike lock-up spots in a large and busy city. I am pretty sure that leaving the bikes where they are is part of the project. If the bikes were displayed in a manner that did not take up bike parking, I would not have minded.

    Cycler - Yes to your 2nd paragraph, and I think that this is further speaks to the fuzzy line between public art, public decoration, and imposing things on people. It might also be worth mentioning, that, the Tree Hugger article makes it sound as if they were hoping for funding - that this would be funded by the city as a public art project - and are dismayed not to have received it.

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  5. Is that a nice raleigh superbe with a wald rack fitted. grrrr.

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  6. Meh. It's only one bike out of a kajillion that have gone to the landfill. See, for it to be refurbished someone's got to actually do the work; not so many are willing to do it.
    And it's only half a bike rack.
    It has a basket, has flowers and it's colorful; who cares if it's called art or not.
    There's a lot of public "art" to the tune of tens of thousands that look like utter crap and do nothing as far as spiritual uplift.
    Banksy doesn't get a NEA grant every year after all.

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  7. Jeez, you're right - just noticed the little herons on the chain ring.

    Bicycle Recycling - Though possible, it would be pretty difficult to refurbish the bikes now that they've been spraypainted head-to-toe.

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  8. I find myself in sympathy with the underground artists of the project - I read the links before reading your post all the way through. But hadn't thought about the potential usefulness of the bikes if they were refurbished instead of decommissioned as artworks.

    I can't argue with the points you made but I still think that a neon painted bike with flowers in its basket makes a more bike-friendly atmosphere than a rusty abandoned bike taking up the same space -- and in none of the pictures shown is the bike competing with functional bikes for parking. The project seems to me a great grass-roots initiative. And I think seeing the bikes would be a highlighter-underlined visual saying "Here's a great place someone once biked to. Maybe you should bike here tomorrow."

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  9. I like the flowers, the bike is an offense. The city should put an official lock on the bike, offering it to whoever wants it, for a small fee, say $5. Then it could be fixed up, ridden or sold. If no offer after 30 days, to the dump.

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  10. GR Jim - See above. I have no inside info into the story, but the TH article suggests that the project organisers believe it *should* be funded as public art. I think that would be a difficult case to make, mainly because the objects in question reduce the usefulness of specially designated public spaces. Also, when it comes to funding a distinction is made between public art and decoration, in that art typically has a message and is thought-provoking, beyond just looking cool or pleasing. I genuinely wonder what the message of these is, if we treat it as art.

    Also, these vintage Raleighs are increasingly becoming rarer than a kajjillion - particularly outside of cities like Boston and NYC. Pieces of history that could have been appreciated by many now covered with neon paint - bound to make more than a few people sad.

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  11. PS - I could see someone making a case for "ghost bikes" being public art, provided that they are not attached to bike racks or private property.

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  12. I think part of the issue is that Toronto's current Mayor, Rob Ford has come across as fairly "anti-bike" and it sounds like the city has become a less friendly place for cyclists of late, so this is in part a response to that. Also, it seems, they're color coded, denoting various historical, artistic or cultural hot spots, so there's a bit of purpose to them (and it might be kind of cool to get a "good bike" map and use it to tour Toronto).

    While it would be nice to see the used bikes put to good use, GR Jim is right, the city would have cut the lock and thrown them away (also, while the one in the photo may have had the potential to become rideable again, I'm betting most of them were department store clunkers that didn't work well to begin with). "Made rideable again" is better than "made into a decoration, with flowers" but "made into a decoration" is better than "sent to a landfill."

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  13. This kind of project is just guerilla art and deserves no funding, imo. I wouldn't even consider it art, more like a public service.
    Bikes belong to their owners, free to do with what they want: throw it away, refurbish, paint or fetishize. Doesn't matter if it's a Raleigh or a 59 Cadillac - social commentators need to apply.
    It's all part of the urban cosmos.

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  14. I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but how is this any different than graffiti? Aren't these "artists" destroying something that belongs to another person? After all, who decides whether a bicycle is truly abandoned or not? Locking a bike on a public rack isn't like abandoning a car in the middle of a roadway - there's no way to tell whether the owner left it there with the intent to abandon it. Can you imagine someone who locked the bike outside, left on vacation and came back to find a neon, spray painted monstrosity in its place? I'd imagine the reaction would be the same as arriving home to find that your car has been vandalised or the side of your house has been graffitied.


    That's just my 2 cents. I don't think there is any artistic merit to stuff like this, especially when it involves interfering with private property.

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  15. OTH, apropos of what Matt said, if it's a political statement and can possibly secure funding then I'm for it.
    I ain't Canadian and it ain't my tax dollars anyway.

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  16. Being an artist/graphic design professional, I know the definition of art has sadly been expanded by academia. Then there's outsider art - some good some not. To me the painted bikes look more of an eye sore - not much merit or thoughtfulness there. A bike that can still be used should be used or refurbished and used. There are people out there that want a bike and can't afford one.

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  17. In Canada (at least for sure in Toronto and Montreal), there are more junk bikes laying around that can be used or recycled. Freaking Canadian Tire, CCM, Peugeot clunkers, you name it. It does not take anything from anyone that these bikes are used for artistic projects.

    "After all, who decides whether a bicycle is truly abandoned or not?"

    The City has that authority. The police does every spring. Anyone can actually call them to denounce a bike laying around. They cut all the crusty abandoned bikes after thawing, auction them away and pockets the money, oh pardon me, they *donate* it. I would rather see these become art projects. Always better than the industrial public art "sculptures" from the 70's we have to put up with.

    Here, when you leave a clunker long enough in the streets that obviously looks like garbage, you've effectively abandoned it. Lots of people leave their bikes throughout the winter. When it starts melting and they see the bike did not survive, they leave it there.
    So much a pain in the ass that Montreal police stopped holding the auctions and take these bikes directly to the dump. You have to go to Longueuil or Laval now...

    @ Velouria
    Your take on the parking space is a classic example of undressing Paul to dress Peter. In my view, it is much better to ask for *enough* bike parking available that a few can be used for art projects without taking anything from anyone. I'd rather fight for real-assed parking all over town, Dutch-style, rather than bicker with a few artists for some random bike hooks.

    I don't see much difference between these and ghost bikes actually, of which I approve as well.

    Oh well, I guess Canada is a different country than the US, particularly on such issues.

    http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=b852a3bc-8833-46d6-8523-ecc9946da96b

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  18. Lately there has been an old green single-speed Schwinn locked to a lamp post in my neighborhood. My neighborhood is extremely hilly, so it's rare to see anything other than a road bike or a mountain bike with plenty of gears around here. The bike has been there every time I've ridden by in the past couple weeks, so I'm beginning to think it might be abandoned. It's quite pretty just as it is, so I'd be sad if someone spray painted it or altered it in any way. I've been tempted to leave a note for the owner - "If you don't want it, I'll take it and give it a good home!" Not that I'd have much use for single-speed myself, but I could could certainly foster it until I found a new owner.

    I imagine that if you don't ride bikes, you might look at an old bike as a piece of junk, not realizing the beauty and potential usefulness of many of those old machines. In that case, it would seem that they can be improved with paint.

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  19. I have always looked at bikes in general as art. Even now i have my current work in progress on the bike rack. (fatguyorangebike.blogspot.com) I am taking my local bike map (bike-pgh) and laminating it to the bike. a little touchup paint and clear coat at the end and the bike will not only be art but ridable art.

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  20. Proper bike parking is a subject near and dear to my heart and I hate to see half of a hitching post blocked. The thing is, if the artbike is locked permanently to the rack, then a cyclist could just lock to that bike (not an ideal situation, but still not bad for short-term parking).

    I think that the artists are being unrealistic if they expect the bikes to become a permanent part of the public space. I've created "unauthorized" public art myself, and the very transience of the finished work is something an artist should accept. As an artist, you are imposing your work on the public, you have no right to expect that it will be there permanently. You're working in the realm of graffiti art, yarnbombing, or stickers stuck to street signs (here in Providence, Shepard Fairy's "Andre the Giant has a Posse" stickers come to mind).

    Of course, if it captures the public's imagination, then you are able to work with the city to install a version on a more permanent basis. But an artist shouldn't get upset if the city wants to remove an unauthorized work.

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  21. Though there's something about the aesthetic here I can appreciate (maybe the combination of cherry red and the purple flowers in the basket) my first reaction was eye-rolling frustration that someone has taken a spray can to what looks like a nice, intact little ladies' Raleigh and permanently screwed it up. This hardly looks like an abandoned bike to me--no saggy chain or bent rims or missing wheels. Seems frivolous and thoughtless of the "artist" to have taken something that a. Belonged to someone else and b. Still has an intrinsic value and pretty much trashing it, even in an "interesting" way. Grrrr.

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  22. Looking at the pictures it kind of reminds me of the horse or cow statues I've seen in other towns/cities with paintings on them placed around the city. My thought is that the motivation behind this is not creating legitimate art, but creating things that are a part of the city -- having the power of changing and crafting their own surroundings, rather than having someone higher up the governmental ladder. I think that this is a concern that definitely merits attention. I believe the same thought motivates guerilla or urban gardening, to be able to say I created THAT, I MADE something and it is a part of my city. It also doesn't surprise me that bikes were used -- bikes can have very beautiful form. That combined with some flowers is more appealing to me than a cow statue with Starry Night painted skin.

    Having said that, it saddens me to see an old Raleigh in such a condition. In fact, a good amount of the photos seem to be of old three-speeds. I REALLY REALLY hope that these were unusable bikes before they were painted. It also sucks that they're taking up valuable and often rare bike parking spots.

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  23. so.... If I see one of these painted bikes I should now know it's abandoned and has no owner right?.... and it could use a new home.... eyeing those road bikes.... I trust sister sprocket over at the kick stand would approve of art bikes for the masses.... I on the other hand wouldn't mind a free beater to get to school and back.... *breaks out the bolt cutter*

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  24. Well, the two women involved both have dealings with OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design, for the non locals). That says all I need to know. I'll leave aside my personal thoughts on what art is, for the most part, and relate this:

    If you're squeamish, stop reading, now!

    Some few years ago in Toronto, three fellows (who I seem to recall were students at OCAD) got a hold of a stray cat, tortured and skinned it alive. On video.; Apparently it was art. There were teachers at that institution who defended them in print. Another shining star thought it terribly clever to swallow paint and then vomit over paintings he didn't like. Of course this brave act of artistic integrity was defended again.

    When I hear "OCAD", I think: guilty until proven innocent.

    There are many occasions when I wish to lock up I look at the bike or bikes on the ring and wonder: beater or abandoned?

    So thanks "artists" for making the life of and average guy just a little more difficult. You're not screwing "the man", you're affecting someone who's in the, shall we say, lower echelons. The city clearing racks and rings of abandoned bikes is a good thing. But, I guess as long as it serves your smug interests, it's ok.

    Apparently this touched a nerve with me!

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  25. As someone who studied painting, I know what you mean! i also am a bit of a grump about bike 'art'. I hate seeing bicycles painted white(almost always white anyway) on driveways-as if it is cute! Do these people ride bicycles? No. Somehow by having cute white painted bikes on their driveway, with a basket of flowers, they allude to some pastoral rural charm. But what does it mean? move to the country and ride cute bikes on quant quiet lanes? Not a chance. There is a farm nearby with old british bikes with beautiful sturmey archer hubs that are now useless. I like to imagine one day past peak oil and people are desperate to get around...and they see their painted bicycle and realize they could have used it!!
    Toronto as a city is bankrupt and the conservative mayor is slashing everything cultural, so there is no way this bike 'project' will last. The mayor is pretty anti bike, so for him, it's a way to take bikes off the road isn't it?
    And yes, old well made raleighs are still common, but becoming rare. To paint an old raleigh 3 speed with the heron chainring is a travesty.
    Yes, there are loads of junk bikes around that would be better off recycled, but from what I know of cute bike art, they are likely painting gorgeous old bikes instead of gross single use walmart or canadian tire bikes.
    Another issue is that Toronto like many northern cities has real winter. While I know people in T. ride their bikes in the snow, I know plenty of people park their bike over winter and then wake up in the spring and remember their bikes. Some people go away for awhile, or the bike is stolen and abandoned. This collective is potentially wrecking someone's ride.

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  26. Hey all,

    The bikes don't really take up a parking space, because there will be no owners coming to unlock them and ride them away, so just lean your bike against the "art-bike" and pass your U-lock/cable/chain through the bike and hitching post.

    In fact, if the art-bike is well-locked then it just becomes an even bigger thing to hitch to.

    Also, having stripped and repainted three bikes last winter, I know that taking off that spray paint would take no more than two or three hours (well, maybe four), so if the bike is worth rebuilding, then just cut the lock, and take the bike home - it's been officially declared "abandoned" by the city, right ? so no worries that you'd be stealing something. Or don't strip and repaint it. Just get it running and ride it as-is.

    In general, I'm a fan of guerilla art, but it shouldn't be publicly funded. If it's funded it isn't guerilla, and anyway, guerilla art should be current, which means it must be temporary. Whatever happens to it after it is made, is part of the process (as is the controversy surrounding it).

    Thinking that art is just something that happens in museums and galleries is like thinking that bicycles are just things that are raced in the Tour de France.

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  27. The first paragraph made me laugh. That is exactly how I remember my art classes.

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  28. I totally agree with you, Velouria. It is/was a Raleigh Sports that most certainly could have been resurrected by someone (like me!).

    I do think it looks good, but wouldn't a better statement be an abandoned car? Oh, but that might take up a *car* parking spot, which surely wouldn't be tolerated.

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  29. While I agree with your intent, those bicycles don't need to be rescued, refurbished, and donated to those who would need them. I volunteer at a bike co-op that does just that, and we always have far more bikes than we can possibly deal with. Far, far more. Storage space is completely full, and this is after culling out bikes that need more than minor repairs. Bikes last far too long for our modern society -- even a cheap bike with a one-piece Ashtabula crank will last years and years with decent maintenance. What those bikes need is to be recycled.

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  30. I have the same senitment when I see someone in suburbia use a bicycle as a yard decoration - they'll place it under a tree and plant flowers in the basket and grow vines onto the bike.

    Even this picture, which really looks like art to me, makes me sad at the lost utility of the bike
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ghost_rider_commutes/6071991210/

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  31. It reminds me a bit of the painted orange bikes that DKNY scattered over NYC a few years ago: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/08/rounding-up-the-orange-bicycles/
    Unfortunately, I think that painting bikes like this helps to reduce the impact of Ghost Bikes. It could become like awareness ribbons - I know pink is breast cancer, red is AIDS, but I need a reference guide for anything else.
    Mark

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  32. Initially I was somewhat shocked that someone would just declare someone else's bike "abandoned", but Montrealize explained what happens well enough that I "get it" now! Yes, it is somewhat unsettling to see a good bike go down like that, but It really speaks to the disposable nature of things these days, not just Bikes.

    It's a gnat on a horses butt, compared to this:

    http://youtu.be/hWmAIhz43S4

    I heard that Amsterdam dredged 15,000 Bikes out of their canals last year!! V, how many of your beloved loop frame bikes are in there??
    Seems it's easier to Nick someone's unlocked bike to get across town, then just dump it in the canal when you are done! Not sure why the would not just leave it in one of the many bike racks and let someone else steal it?? Maybe homeless people? when I lived in Houston the Canals were constantly being clogged with shopping carts that the homeless peple would push into them.

    Unfortunately, many of the bikes sold today, are ready for recycling the minute they roll out of the store, I call them garage ornaments, because the owner, buys them, rides them round the block a few times, then parks them and the tires rot!! Fortunately nobody's gonna cry over a Huffy!

    Art? Yeah, O.K. I guess??? Publicly funded? Definately NOT!!!!

    MASMOJO

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  33. If anything can be "art", then nothing is art.

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  34. @ Frozen Prairie

    "so if the bike is worth rebuilding, then just cut the lock, and take the bike home - it's been officially declared "abandoned" by the city, right ? so no worries that you'd be stealing something."

    Exactly, nobody cares anyways.
    In their last spring edition, "Velo Mag" and "Protegez-vous" assessed several of the bike locks on the market. They did it on street, on junk bikes, like real thieves, with all the required equipment: Nobody reacted!!
    http://www.protegez-vous.ca/un-cadenas-fiable-pour-mon-velo.html

    You can actually steal a bike in public and nobody cares, so seriously, if you see some bike of your liking abandoned, then help yourself...
    Like this guy who called the city to ask if he could get an abandoned bike and was told that if the city came they would take the bike to the dump. He then asked for advice on how to steal it!
    http://www.velocia.ca/forums/le-cafe-du-velo/9685-velo-abandonne.html

    Seriously, just help yourself!!

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  35. This seems pretty innocuous for all the ire it's stirring up here.

    "However the artists want to make it clear that he did not commission or donate City funds to the project."

    I read this not as a lament for lack of funding but as a statement used to dissociate themselves from the mayor's begrudging approval.

    For any art to be considered halfway decent it has to offend someone.

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  36. I have no opinion on the art vs. public space vs recycling debate that this movement is stirring up, but here's a hypothetical twist:

    I wonder what would happen if the artists who are painting these bikes simply sawed off the locks first (it's not hard, I've done it with my own U-lock)-- just leaving the bikes there, as found, but newly painted/adorned. It would be interesting to see what happens. Do the bikes just disappear over time? Or do they stay? Would people irreverently knock them over to access the bike racks? Or would people respectably keep them propped up? The answer to this question may provide a clue to the problem, if there even is one.

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  37. I'm not sure this project really needs to have an official mission statement to mean something. Just by going through the comments here, it's clear people see different things.

    Like you, my first thought was about bike parking considerations but as I thought more about it, and I got to Montrealize's comment, I figure it's not my city and I'm not sure of the bicycle climate in Canada to really make parking the sticking point against this project. Maybe there's something else going on that the residents who live there day to day understand about these neon bikes.

    But I will say, and I agree with a lot of the comments here, that these kinds of public displays are temporary. You can tear out guerilla landscaping. You can paint over graffiti. I think that's something we can all agree on about guerilla art. It's not supposed to be a monument. So for them to argue that it should be permanent is kind of silly. Besides, are the bikes even made to survive permanently outdoors in various weather conditions?

    For every one of their neon bikes that the city takes back, I'm sure they could find others to replace them in other parts of the city. Personally, I feel that keeping them permanent will just make them fit into the cityscape as just another thing to ignore. No matter how bright.

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  38. Hi,
    These works are on my daily ride, so I'm going to throw in my two (Canadian) cents.

    I (also an art school grad) am a bit "meh" on whether on not I think they are "good" art. On the one hand they are bright markers on the way to the Uni. On the other, they are like highlighter pens gone mad and I'm not sure they are doing anything good for the already poor relations between bikers and non bikers in Toronto (or for people's appreciation of art).

    I believe that part of the "protest" involved here is that after the OCAD girl painted the first one as part of a project, it was tagged for removal. Her gripe (as I understand it) was that the bike had been untagged and clearly abandoned for years before she painted it, so the tagging for removal was seen as specifically an insult to her work.

    In very mild defense of the pieces, we all did things in art school we thought were "bold" and revolutionary that really weren't.

    Also they are rarely in areas of congestion where bike parking is a problem. I think I would like them more if they were on bike routes as kind of visual markers on the sometimes crazy mess of bake street bike routes in Toronto that can be a labyrinth for the uninitiated to work out.

    I don't know Veloria, I see your point about the bikes being ruined, but these bikes have been abandoned for unbelievable lengths of time and are rust piles to begin with. And honestly they so far haven't proven to be in the way for me.

    Now if you want to talk about them purely as visually uninspiring and lacking in conceptual depth, I'm with ya.

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  39. PS -- Except for maybe that Raleigh Sports. I couldn't see the photo -- I think The Good Bike Project has decided to block you, apparently they aren't good enough to accept criticism -- but Raleigh Sports do deserve rescue.

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  40. Jon - What do you mean, can you not see the photo in this post? It shows up for me.

    P - I don't think there is any ire per se; it's just a discussion. To me it is interesting/odd/thought provoking that when a project involves bikes it is automatically applauded, with not necessarily a great deal of analysis about whether it is actually pro-bike/cyclist, and I think this is one case of that.

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  41. Here's some more info on the project: http://torontoist.com/2011/08/the_invasion_of_the_neon_bikes.php

    Each of the bicycles are painted a different colour to reflect some sort of meaning that I simply can't keep straight (the above article is the only place I've seen this explanation). The bicycles were donated by the City, bikes that were abandoned on city installed racks and due to some weird rules can't be donated to non-profits who would refurbish them but can be donated to effectively be further trashed. The majority are not taking up bicycle racks and are instead locked to hydro poles or street signs. Reaction here in Toronto is mixed. Some are having a great time discovering these bikes across the city and posting pics to Twitter and Facebook. Many are worried about how these bikes will be maintained, in fact some have already been vandalized. This project is somewhat cribbing from a similar idea in a neighbouring town. Only in this other town, Mississauga, the bicycles are partially planted into the ground, attached to large city signs and are essentially planters that are kept up all summer long. Personally, I think this is an interesting idea but the execution is rather, ugly. Let's draw attention to the bikes people are using everyday and if those bicycle become abandoned let's find a way to keep them in use instead.

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  42. somervillain - I think the hypothetical twist you describe would likely qualify to receive funding as a public art project : )

    Duncan - Thanks for the inside story. It's too bad, but not surprising, that some of the bikes are getting vandalized. The neighbouring town's presentation sounds interesting, will try to look it up.

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  43. somervillain - I think the hypothetical twist you describe would likely qualify to receive funding as a public art project : )

    So then:

    1) funding is given as a public art project-- win for the artists

    2) public gets to enjoy the "art"-- win for the public

    2) bike racks are not monopolized by abandoned bikes-- win for the cyclists

    3) scavengers take the bikes to recycle/rehab-- win for the scavengers

    Looks like a winning recipe, huh?

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  44. I can see the photo now, and I think it's pretty cool. There's something about paint... heh, heh.
    Anyway, I think they did a pretty good job with the spray paint, and the result does look like art to me. Not just because of the paint, but because the level of craftsmanship in doing the paint was good, and the flowers and rack make an interesting contrast. It seems to me that this is as good a use of the bicycle (ignoring the inconvenience of restricting the use of the rack) as recycling it, though not as good as renovating it -- though as I mentioned, we have far more bicycles than we need. It would brighten somebody's day, I think.

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  45. Up here in a certain Northern European country there is a similar sutuation with similar angles on it. There is a sculpter and draughsman here, a colleague of mine, who reworks objects and places them in glass cases. He uses old ship models made by sailors, some over 100 years old, and in other cases old dolls with porcellin heads, also many of them nearing 100 years. He spray paints them grey, adds things to them, takes parts off them, embeds them partially in plaster... The idea is "dead objects". I have been furious with him sometimes: they are dead because he has killed them. Some of these objects should have ended in a musuem, and not as a part of his work. The regional museum director sometimes just shakes his head sadly.

    Now some of the Montreal bikes ARE dead, or were stillborn. I doubt if the Raleigh falls into this category. I feel the same fury looking at the photo.

    My advice to this other artist here was to make his own models, contruct his own dolls. His appropiation of real antiques of historical or cultural value has a feel of hubris about it that makes me very uncomfortable. Is his work intrensically more valuable then that of the craftsman who cast and painted the doll head a century ago? I have refrained from calling him a vandal up to this point in time.

    How long would it take the Montreal artists to learn to weld and handle steel? (Take a few courses. You'll be at a near professional level in 3 months. How commited are they to the project?) Why aren't some of the sprayed bikes more than just sprayed bikes, but sculptures? Smething that at first glance seems to be a painted bike, but on second glance is much more? In the end it feels like a bit of a cheap shot

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  46. Come up with a simple, easily repeatable, visually recognizable theme. Recruit and train others to carry out this application in an urban setting. Sit back and bask as you go to war with "the man" (what we called it in my day). Voila, you are now an edgy street artist/ revolutionary.

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  47. And...There's somebody around town (nyc) who has taken to crocheting (sp?) incredibly intricate multi-hued...sweaters I guess you'd call them, that completely and perfectly encapsulate bikes locked up on the street. I cannot imagine the hours (and skill!) invested into each one, and in time they fall prey to the elements and street traffic and disintegrate. (Leaving the bicycle unmolested) The big bull statue down near Wall Street was similarly encapsulated a few weeks back. That, to me, is actual street art-an anonymous craftsperson spending who-knows-how-many hours to produce a bewilderingly beautiful and inscrutable statement. Taking a spray-can to an otherwise usable bike?...meh.

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  48. I love it! It just added to the great summertime vibe in the T dot! Lord knows those bikes that were left behind to die for so long, needed some love. Thanks.

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  49. I really like the color of that bike. I remember when Painters Mississauga did something like this to a dog house.

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