Bicycle Invisibility Is A Function Of The Imagination

Invisible Bike

Credit: Jimmy Kuehnle

The mind of an artist is a wondrous thing. Ideas and images are formulated, formed and melded in a manner most of us would never imagine.

Such was the case a few years ago when a performance artist decided to create an “invisible” bicycle. The bicycle is made entirely out of Lexan, “bullet proof glass,” except for the chain, bearings and rubber wheels. For the most part, the bike is transparent.

According to Jimmy Kuehnle, the artist, “the bike exists in a dual reality as sculpture and transportation.” Well, this might be true in his mind, but I have my doubts.

Although the concept for this work of art is good in that it combines the idea of an abstract artistic rendering with that of a utilitarian bicycle, it doesn’t quite pull off the bicycle part of the equation. The design is interesting from an aesthetic standpoint, but it is not usable.

The first problem I noticed was the shape of the bike. It is thick and square. This places one’s rear end and private parts on a thick, straight slab of plastic. Now while there are a few pictures of the artist riding this bike with a cushioned seat under his butt, no padding exists to protect him during jolting events such as hitting a bump or pothole. This part of the design must fall under the sculpture side of the duality since it would be a disaster for commuting.

Watching the artist show off this masterpiece might be entertaining. But, as for riding the bike myself, I think it is too thick, solid, and lacking in shock aabsorption.

Of course, we must consider it as a work of art, not a real commuter bike — and not be too critical. We are cyclists and the designer is an artist. Still, if art is going to meet bicycle in the name of commuting, the design of the frame should be more suitable for actual riding. It should take into consideration more than just the idea of invisibility. Speaking of which, I’m not sure I understand why the bike is invisible.

Other than the fact that it looks cool, I don’t see an obvious artistic message. This must be one of those modern art situations where the viewer is required to come up with his or her own interpretation of the work.

Mine would be that for bikes to be accepted as a legitimate form of transportation, they must invisibly and seamlessly fit into the transportation landscape. They must not stand out as outsiders, as interlopers in a motor driven vehicle world. To be invisible is to not attract attention or be accessible to the senses.

OK, that’s my quota of art appreciation for the day. Back to bicycle design and commuting.

Had I been the artist in this venture, I would have rounded the bike’s lines and made it more streamlined. It’s too square. It needs shock absorption and better handling characteristics. I would also have fashioned some type of saddle to properly support the rider’s torso.

This problem is addressed, although in a half-baked way, by the artist who exhibits this bike sculpture by wearing clear clothing. Such an outfit makes the rider invisible. Perhaps an invisible rider doesn’t need shock absorption or precise cornering, not even when he is commuting by bike.

All joking aside (yes, this piece is somewhat tongue in cheek), would someone have to be a cyclist first to create art centered around a bicycle? Probably not. Bicycles have been around for many years. And their shape and size are well suited to incorporation into artistic works.

But, in this case, the concept of transportation was brought into the work. The bike is not seen just as a part of everyday life or just as a work of art. It has a function. That function should have been more pronounced in this sculpture. Even so, it makes one wonder whether the artist is also a cyclist.

Regardless of how one interprets — or whether one values — this sculpture, as cyclists, we must appreciate the fact that art, which is the very essence of human creativity, illustrates bicycles in a positive light. More bike art would be a good thing. It would depict cycling as more refined. And it would show a more cerebral side to what cyclists do.

Art is a reflection of culture. And now that the bicycle has found a place in the art world, it’s just a matter of time before it becomes an indespensible icon of a not too distant post-motor-transportation society.

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