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Cycling and Society Annual Symposium

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference -Mixed Audience


Paper title: The fine art of cycling. Politics, injustice and bicycle art.

Abstract: The bicycle has an important place in the history of modernist art both as the object of representation in drawings, paintings, sculpture, film and performances, and also as a means of making art, an expressive tool. Much of this work is concerned with the symbolic flexibility of the bicycle, the range of meanings it conveys.

This paper will outline the history of the bicycle in avant-garde art, tracing the movement of the vehicle from the early twentieth century onwards, and will concentrate on the work of two artists who have used the bicycle in their work as a means of exploring a variety of political questions. Exiled Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, one of the most famous contemporary artists, has returned to the bicycle repeatedly as a metaphorical figure through which to explore questions of contemporary capitalism, political repression and freedom of movement. Alongside Ai, the paper will examine the multimedia work of prolific Austrian artist and activist Rainer Ganahl. Perhaps more than any other contemporary artist Ganahl has been systematic in exploring the significance of the bicycle in writing, drawings, installations, ceramics, performances and films, and his politicised bicycle art touches on questions of transport systems and car culture, economic inequality, history and nationhood, as well as masculinity, sexuality and fetishism. Between them, this paper will argue, these two artists, provide us with a very striking commentary upon the complex relationship between cycling and society.

Event (Conference)

TitleCycling and Society Annual Symposium
LocationUniversity of Chester
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Degree of recognitionInternational event