Oklahoma's car culture is a force to be reckoned with, but bicycle enthusiasts and Dreamer Concepts Studio & Foundation are hoping that an art show focusing on pedal power will urge Normanites and local governments to work toward a more cyclist-friendly community.
Friday's "Bicyclette" event will feature performance and visual art that focuses on various aspects of bike culture, from customization and trick riding to long-distance bike trips. The event kicks off with a 6 p.m. bike ride as local cyclists converge at Buchanan Bicycles, 561 Buchanan, near Campus Corner, and pedal their way to the Dreamer studio on Main Street. The convoy is, in part, a demonstration of the bike-friendly layout of Norman, but also as a show of force to downtown businesses.
"Downtown doesn't have bike racks in front of any of the business, so I'm hoping that this will make an impact in our community," said studio founder Amber Clour.
MILE AND A HALF
The trip is only a mile and a half, and local artist Kim Rice hopes that it will prove to the participants the viability of bicycles as daily transportation rather than mere recreation. Last summer, she embarked on a cross-country bike trip to Eagle River, Wis., with her husband and two dogs. Drawings and photographs inspired by the trek will be featured in the exhibit.
"It took us 28 days: five rest days and 23 on the bike," Rice said. "We went through Oklahoma, Illinois, a little bit of Kansas and Wisconsin. The art resulted from the experience of having all that time on your hands to think and talk about reinventing the wheel as an art concept."
By that, she means a rejection or reapplication of technology to reduce one's carbon footprint. Both Rice and her husband are bike commuters, and she thinks anyone who chooses to ride a bike in lieu of a car is inherently a conservationist and, to an extent, part of a counterculture.
"It is true that there are various 'scenes' within the biking community, such as BMX, mountain biking, street cycling, competitive road biking, custom cruisers, fixed-gear, commuters," she said. "However, the minute someone makes the choice to get on their bike instead of putting keys in the ignition, they are, in essence, fighting Big Oil."
The show will touch on several facets of bike culture, including custom "mutant" bikes, trick riders from local clubs and a performance art piece titled "Energies," which incorporates a light sensor that is connected to a theremin synthesizer, which will create sounds as bike riders pass near it.
Among the other works rounding out the show is a juried spoke card competition.
"Spoke cards are these little cards that people put in the spokes of their wheels when they are racing," said "Bicyclette" guest curator Lauren Neel. "It is to identify the racer, but also can be used to pay homage to fallen bike messengers. Some just put them in there as artwork.
Oklahoma City bike club Hell Kats is also helping with Friday's show. Neel said that bike clubs like Hell Kats and Norman's Bells Angels, which she is a member of, are informal groups that meet up to spend a night trick-riding, visit neighborhood bars or just cruise around the city.
"Bike clubs help remind people that there are bikers on the road and that you need to share the road with bikers just as bikers need to learn to share the road with motorized vehicles," Neel said. "It's basically a show to bring awareness to bike culture in the metro area."
Rice also sees "Bicyclette" as a celebration of the choice to not buy into the car culture, even if it means having to brave Oklahoma's foul weather.
"When you pass another cyclist on the street, there is an understanding and acknowledgment of one another," Rice said. "You both experience the pleasure and the frustrations of riding. There is nothing I love more than the solidarity of passing another cyclist in bad weather."