Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The emperor's new clothes

La Carrera "Futura" Colnago Master track frame. Sold USD $12,101 (14 Nov)

Art because I tell you so.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


The troll finds much of modern art impenetrable. Bicycles and bicycle parts are much more accessible. Not to mention (often, but not always) more shiny.

Have iphone. Will take photo and post on internet.

By happy circumstance, an opportunity arose to expand the troll’s exposure on a weekend trip to Sydney. It was the 14th annual “Sculptures by the Sea” where artworks are strategically placed on a spectacular stretch of coastline between Bondi and Tamarama beaches. The sculptures are competing for a AUD $60,000 prize and all are apparently for sale - price on application. This public exhibition runs for a couple of weeks every year (28 Oct - 14 Nov this year) and, most importantly for the troll, is completely free (in matters artistic the troll prefers to look, touch, giggle, then go home - without having to part with coin).

Art has a peculiar effect on people. Some are completely turned off by the very notion and (presumed) pretensions of its many vocal advocates. Others are more sanguine. In many ways art is like an appendix. An apparent addendum of human existence. Unobtrusive and probably important to human well-being, but volatile (or at least a little controversial) when it presents itself for recognition.

The troll once found himself at the National Art Gallery in Canberra (Canberra is Australia’s capital in the middle of nowhere simply because Sydney and Melbourne could not agree on who would get the top job. In 1908 a default location was chosen between the two cities, and conveniently, no one was living there at the time. No one wants to live there still...). And the the troll got educated. He worked out that he really liked Arthur Streeton but could take or leave his contemporary, Mr McCubbin. That Mr Warhol liked to (re)do pictures of soup cans, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe in psychedelic colours but could not paint within the lines. Unlike Jeff Smart who had really good vision and a steady hand. That Sidney Nolan used a big, black paint brush. And that Jackson Pollock's "Blue Poles" looks silly in a book but is mind-blowing in real life.

And that timing and context is important in all aspects of Life but particularly so in the understanding and appreciation of modern art. Indeed, this appears to be true of all forms of high-brow human endeavour.

Low-brow but not quite Neanderthal endeavours are more at the troll’s level. And so we come to this:

Colnago Stash & Futura. Collaboration of street artists with Colnago mediated by La Carrera Cycles 2007.
Art in the context of a bicycle.

Both bikes (limited edition of 33 each) are standard Colnago track frames painted by a street-artist-cum-fixed-wheel-enthusiast. Yes, it is very easy to poke fun or dismiss that which we do not understand. And the troll has clearly no idea what’s going on here. The Futura has a lot of colourful dots on it. The Stash has a lot of dark arrows. They look ridiculous. They would look more ridiculous if there was a matching kit to go with it.

Unfortunately there is.

The culprits are apparently well-respected graffiti artists and important proponents of “street culture”. A genre that the troll is not particularly familiar with (the troll likes his musty burrow - hanging out in the streets sounds like a little too much fun, not to mention dangerous) and so the statement is lost on him. But there are no provisions for attaching brake calipers on these frames. That's a shame. Pedestrians and other non-bicycling road users (99.8% of the population in most cities) will be too busy avoiding the death-defying antics of an obstreperous, brakeless track bike to have the wit to savour the artwork paraded in front of them.

Then again, it is possible that these items were meant for display only. The bicycle taken away from its natural environment and displayed on a wall. Street culture becomes wall culture. Or whatever.

Nearly 100 years earlier we had this displayed in the upper echelons of high society:

Bicycle wheel. Marcel Duchamp 1913.
Bicycle in the context of art.

Duchamp challenges the observer to question his notions of art as something perceived by the observer as opposed to necessarily something created by an artist. The first of his “readymades” (found objects placed in a setting that forces the observer to rethink common objects as art) it reassigns the perception of art as not merely the object observed but also the context in which such an object presents itself. Like the other readymades, the troll finds this an insightful, interesting and an important statement. So clever it makes his brain hurt. Clever but that doesn’t make it art.

Art is contentious because it defies definition. You can’t argue logically about it if you are unable to establish a reference point. For the troll, art is an experience of an object or event that appears deeper/ greater than the sum of its component parts. More than just paint on canvas. More than a collection of instruments playing a musical score. The troll has seen many beautiful and clever things but few that he has experienced as “art”.

And, no doubt, someone else will have a different opinion.

Back to the coast.

Although the troll rather enjoys mingling with rich, beautiful people in the midst of high culture, he is also rather fond of this stretch of rocky coastline. And, at some time, it would be appreciated that the area return to its status quo.

A pleasant stroll where raw nature meets refined human habitation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours’s bike

Cinelli Laser track frame. Sold on ebay USD $5400 (31 Oct)

The troll has never really been all that enamoured by the various itinerations of the Cinelli Laser. Not because the lines aren’t clean or easy on the eye (they are) but because the troll only became aware of the Laser (precedence notwithstanding) after he had already espied and fallen for the Kestrel 200 SC in the May 1989 issue of Bicycle Guide.

The 200 SC was a cutting edge, carbon monocoque road frame that had beautiful flowing lines, light weight and (reportedly) great handling. And it wasn’t prone to catastrophic failure as some of its carbon/ fiberglass forebears. With the revolutionary Kestrel 4000 released a year earlier (1988, arguably the first production carbon monocoque road frame*) and the super-light Kestrel 200 EMS unveiled a year later (1990), the place for carbon amongst the bicycle elite was sealed. Admittedly, it did take quite some time for the traditional-minded Europhile-roadie to come to terms with the idea (it was up to the pagans that took up the nascent sport of “triathlon” and the heathen American cyclist to dare to embrace new technology).

In this setting a steel bicycle with its corner joints filled with bondo just didn't make sense. Not when there were ultra-light carbon creations to be had.

Well it didn’t make sense, that is, until now.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s bike...


It is not that often that the sublime and the ridiculous gets captured in the one picture.

(the ridiculous, of course, being the fact that the 1st generation C record rear derailleur with the stamped logo has been paired with something other than a stamped 1st generation C Record crankset)

Modern pedals suggest that the bike will be ridden. Paper under the tyres suggest that the ride will be awfully short... or someone is gonna go through a lot of paper...

One version of the road-going Laser. Two examples.

Smooth transitions and perfect proportions. Classic yet timeless elegance. Art merged with technology. Form and function. That Cinelli blue... One can wax lyrical forever.

Just sinful.

(pictures from Circle Traders, a Japanese bicycle reseller)


* Brent Trimble who designed the Kestrel 4000 (as well as doing designs under his own name and working for Trek in their early forays into carbon) was an early innovator and proponent of composite bicycle frames. Pity that there is little recognition of his work - well not much that I can find on an (admittedly superficial) internet search. Alas I will have to rely on a fading memory and some old bicycle magazines.

Bicycle Guide Aug 1988

And not to forget another member of the Trimble family ...

Bicycle Guide Aug 1989

Hot Designs... 1988

Bicycle Guide Nov/Dec 1988