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Art Spin 2011 Gearing Up

Art Spin Toronto 2011 crEATe header

Art Spin is a bicycle-led art crawl that takes place once a month during the summer, in downtown Toronto’s west end Art District and includes stops at commercial, artist run & public galleries – as well as installations by independent artists and visits to artist’s private work spaces – during June, July, and August.

Art Spin Toronto fundraizer "Create" LogoThis is Art Spin‘s third season, and this year their unveiling a new element in the Art Spin experience!

crEATe” is a fund raising dinner where Toronto Art Lovers will have an opportunity to mentor an artist and help “crEATe” a project that will become a stop on one of this summer’s Art Spin tours. Dinner guests will vote on the project proposal they like best and the winner will receive the profits from that dinner to fund their project which in turn will be included in one of our Art Spin tours this summer. The winning project proposals may receive funding of up to $1000!

The Art Spin crEATe mentoring dinner will take place on Wednesday, June 8th. at Lula Lounge at 1585 Dundas St. W. Doors open at 6:30pm and dinner will be served at 7pm.

Tickets for crEATe are only $45 for a three course meal (cash bar will be in effect) prepared by Enrique Wilson, the head chef of the Lula Lounge . Tickets must be purchased in advance, just go to the crEATe page at Art Spin‘s website  – – where you can purchase via Pay Pal.

Alternatively, email or call 416-532-5274 to purchase tickets in person.

If you’re an Artist with an proposal you think fits the theme, the deadline to submit proposals closes May 31st. Submission guidelines are avaiable at the link – or below:

- good luck.

Here’s a brief video exposé of Art Spin’s 2010 events

Video produced by Cheryl Rondeau

Art Spin website:


Posted: May 27th, 2011
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Photo: Bicycle Sculpture Installation

Image copyright – the artists: Claes Oldenberg & Coosje Van Bruggen

Bicyclette Ensevelie (Buried Bicycle) Installation in Paris France

Bicyclette Ensevelie (Buried Bicycle), 1990
Steel, aluminum, fiber-reinforced plastic; painted with polyurethane enamel
Four parts, in an area approximately 150 ft. 11 in. x 71 ft. 2 in. (46 x 21.7 m)
wheel: 9 ft. 2 in. x 53 ft. 4 in. x 10 ft. 4 in. (2.8 x 16.3 x 3.2 m)
handlebar and bell: 23 ft. 8 in. x 20 ft. 5 in. x 15 ft. 7 in. (7.2 x 6.2 x 4.7 m)
seat: 11 ft. 4 in. x 23 ft. 9 in. x 13 ft. 7 in. (3.5 x 7.2 x 4.1 m)
pedal: 16 ft. 4 in. x 20 ft. 1 in. x 6 ft. 11 in. (5.0 x 6.1 x 2.1 m)
Parc de La Villette, Paris

Statement by the Artists

Bicyclette Ensevelie (Buried Bicycle), 1990 Coosje’s thoughts on Samuel Beckett’s anti-hero Molloy — who falls off his bicycle and finds himself lying in a ditch unable to recognize the object — prompted her selection of a bicycle as the subject for an “intervention” we had been asked to propose by the French Ministry of Culture. The work was to be incorporated into the new Parc de la Villette, designed by the architect Bernard Tschumi, on the outskirts of Paris. The bicycle has close ties to France, having been invented there and celebrated in the Tour de France. Its parts have also been featured in art, from Picasso’s bull’s head made out of a bicycle seat and handlebars to Marcel Duchamp’s bicycle wheel mounted on a stool. In fact, we decided that the parts and details were better subjects for a configuration of sculptural elements than the unwieldy whole; our solution was to bury most of the vehicle. Doing this allowed us to select a large scale appropriate to the park’s wide spaces. We settled on an invisible bicycle, 150 feet 11 inches long, with the front wheel turned slightly so that a portion would protrude above the ground, and plotted the locations of a pedal, one half of the seat, and one handlebar with a bell, using a sawed-up standard bicycle that our daughter had outgrown as a model. Where Molloy’s bicycle bell had been red, the Buried Bicycle’s would be blue, in contrast to a number of red “follies” the architect had placed in the park.

The inevitability of the placement of the parts in relation to one another as defined by the bicycle mimicked the grid of the park. At the same time, however, our self-contained configuration was dropped as if by chance over that of the park, causing the pedal to intrude on the courtyard of the Folie Belvédère and the space occupied by a group of Philippe Starck chairs. We responded to this by simply turning the pedal, our bicycle pedaling on.

From: Chronology of Large-Scale Projects by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen:

Claes Oldenberg & Coosje Van Bruggen:

Via Art Spin Facebook Photo’s page:

Image also posted in the BikingToronto ART FORUM:


Posted: May 26th, 2011
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June is Bike Month! Free pancakes and T-shirts at City Hall!!

It all starts with “Ride Your Bike to Work Day” — and that is Monday May 30, 2011. I’m going to ride the Dundas East route from Kingston Rd to City Hall along the great Dundas Street Bike Lanes (people will gather at Kingston Road and Dundas for 7:30 AM). All the starting points across the city are on this great Google Map I’ve embedded below – I’ve zoomed in on the East end of downtown and popped up the Dundas start point info box – click on the link below to go to the larger Google Maps version and check out your neighbourhood.

View Toronto Group Commute 2010 in a larger map

Paul Young, health promoter at South Riverdale Community Health Centre sent along this email today:

This Monday coming – May 30 is the kick off for Bike Month. And at 7:30 AM at Dundas and Kingston Rd a bunch of people will bike to City Hall for free pancakes, etc. – sort of an early morning party for cycling.

It would be great to see you. Some of you remember the long campaign to have bike lanes installed on Dundas E. (they went in . . . what? 7 years ago??). Yikes! They are a little butchered at the moment but mostly still there so let’s celebrate.

Please Note: I have since learned that T-Shirts will NOT be available at our start point – only at Yonge and Bloor or at City Hall. So you’ll have to wear your own T-shirt and hope for the best at City Hall. If it rains your odds go way up! If it’s sunny, well that makes for a nicer ride – either way you win!

Other events and start points here.

Hope to see you!

If you live in the Beaches, or Leslieville or the South Riverdale neighbourhood you know that a contractor has just finished running a hydro corridor under Dundas Street from Greenwood to Logan. They had to dig a 1 metre trench – and almost all of it was right down the middle of either the east bound or west bound bike lane. I’ve ridden the lanes 4 days a week in both directions for the last two months – and by now they’re not bad – for a patch job!

And it’s all the more reason to come out and support the idea of sustainable transportation – and at the same time make sure our councillors know we want these lanes resurfaced and re-painted soon!

See you on Monday!


Posted: May 25th, 2011
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The life of Neighbourhoods understood through Cycling

Over at BoingBoing Cory Doctorow twigged to a beautiful essay about the bicycle as an instrument of enlightenment: The Real Reason Why Bicycles are the Key to Better Cities by Kasey Klimes.

The essay below is an expansion on Klimes ideas – where I bring in some ideas and authors I’ve been thinking about of late – I therefore suggest you first read Klimes short essay at the tab it opens in, and I’ll wait here ’til you get back.

(interlude music)

Welcome back.

The central theme of the essay – that the bicycle is an instrument of experiential understanding that the car fundamentally, cannot be – reminded me of an idea from the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (1974 – by Robert M. Pirsig).  Pirsig’s idea – that the view through the rectangular windscreen of an automobile (like the TV set) provides a blinkered, romantic view of the world, a subjective impression – not the real thing — while the experience of travel on a motorbike is a true-er picture for several reasons.

This idea is re-framed by Kasey Klimes in his essay:

In their cars, the world is reduced to mere equation. “What is the fastest route from A to B?” one will ask as they start their engine. This invariably results in a cascade of freeway concrete flying by at incomprehensible speeds. Their environment, the neighborhoods that compose their communities, the beauty of architecture, the immense societal problems in distressed areas, the faces of neighbors… all of this becomes a conceptually abstract blur from the driver’s seat.


In the particular passage that I’ve paraphrased from Zen, Pirsig isn’t talking about the effect of speed in isolating the driver as Kasey Klimes does – Pirsig’s idea is more about gleaning an understanding through ‘being at one’ with the elements – the wind, the sun, the rain, the pavement zipping by just under your feet, the hands on experience – feeling the vibrations of the road – but I believe, and this is Klimes central point – that speed plays an key role in cutting car drivers off from a ‘real’ experience of the city they live in.

In this excerpt, Klimes describes how a cycling tour can turn that around:

Invite a motorist for a bike ride through your city and you’ll be cycling with an urbanist by the end of the day. Even the most eloquent of lectures about livable cities and sustainable design can’t compete with the experience from atop a bicycle saddle.

“These cars are going way too fast,” they may mutter beneath their breath.

“How are we supposed to get across the highway?”

“Wow, look at that cathedral! I didn’t know that was there.”

“I didn’t realize there were so many vacant lots in this part of town.”

“Hey, let’s stop at this cafe for a drink.”

Suddenly livability isn’t an abstract concept, it’s an experience. Human scale, connectivity, land use efficiency, urban fabric, complete streets… all the codewords, catchphrases, and academic jargon can be tossed out the window because now they are one synthesized moment of appreciation. Bicycles matter because they are a catalyst of understanding – become hooked on the thrill of cycling, and everything else follows. Now that new freeway isn’t a convenience but an impediment. Mixed-use development isn’t a threat to privacy but an opportunity for community. And maybe, just maybe, car-free living will eventually be seen not as restrictive, but as a door to newfound freedom.

The idea that speed blinds – and that cycling or walking provides a qualitatively different experience – is an idea I’ve been thinking about lately too; and it speaks to the suburban/downtown divide – the so-called ’905/416 divide’.

My idea is that in the suburban culture too much of our time is spent in our ‘private’ places (exacerbated essentially, by the ‘private automobile’ and the urban constructs that have been built in the last half century to enable it -  leave our ‘social selves’ under-developed) - and that leads to a reactionary view of development planning that is embodied for example, by Mayor Ford’s ‘War on the Car’ mythos.

The car enables a continuous private experience through the work day; and this maintains through the entire work week for suburbanites. Starting with the private world of the suburban home – isolated by curly-cue culdesacs, divided into squares by non-people-friendly four lane freeway-style avenues; then each morning suburbanites get into the private automobiles for the single occupant, one hour commute; then into the private underground parking via security pass card; and the pass-card activated elevators – that only stop on specified floors; then the private work cubical; working in a small teams connected by intra-webs (inter-office computer networks firewalled from the World Wide Web), with-in an over-arching corporate secrecy meme .

This private experience day after day, leaves us isolated in the neighbourhoods where we live, and ignorant (and thus scared) of the neighbourhoods around where we work, in the downtown for example (where all the problems/opportunities are).

Jane Jacobs postulates it is these neighbourhoods that are what cities are made of, are the building blocks of. Thus many suburbanites can’t and don’t see the beauty of our cities — and conversely, the problems of our cities are ‘black box’ problems – unfathomable, scary, because they exist out side of any personal experience. And as such our impressions of what our city is comes more and more from the kick and slash police file news reporting that is typical of local news reporting these days (the product of tight budgets in media due to the IT revolution) that present simple black and white stories – in philosophy called ‘dualities’; like evil vs good – rather than for example, a paralyzed dialectic; one that can be fixed with a better understanding, better planning, better management.

The later is a world view that accents the good in everyone rather than the former which accents the darker angles of our nature. With out good data the human brain errs towards paranoid every time – it’s part of the flight or flight soft-wiring in us all. We either go seek out what we don’t understand and resolve the lack of data through experience and then find connection or we flee, hiding from the unknowns and create sub-culture cults marked by delusional thinking which leads to fighting.

The bicycle is a more apt metaphor for Pirsig’s idea than the motorbike in Zen, but this wasn’t Pirsig’s goal to describe this blindness – he was talking about the choice to not see (the  romantic path) versus the practical path to understanding. (In fact Persig ends up proposing both are necessary – and I agree.)

Based on this understanding, perhaps what is happening is, a generation down the road, so to speak, a cult has arisen amongst the specialists, the romantics who refused to understand the science around them and rely on art, sit-com television writing and bits popular eastern philosophy like the idea of Karma and other such metaphysical formulas to explain the day – with no understanding of the mechanical scientific environment that surrounds them, – a function of the terror of the nuclear bomb and the cold war where the guberment used terror in our class rooms (duck and cover),  and neighbourhoods (air raid sirens on every school) to sell a permanet military economy to the population – perhaps, or the ever speeding technological progress that destroys what we understand and replaces it too quickly with something we do not – what economist Karl Polanyi  in his great work “The Great Transformation”, described as technology ‘diss-embedding’ from the culture that created it.

This reactionary cult now balks when it is proposed they must change their practice and thinking, open their minds to more complex understanding. It is true I think that 99% of us would rather things stay exactly as they are, thus verifying the neurotic behaviour patterns we love and cling to. But change is constant, life is change; and even while a life lived ‘dead’ is what most of us covet on one level, ironically it is this dead-ness, this same-ness that leaves us existentially unfulfilled – which we then try to break out from – ‘getting out’ is the expression I hear – with diversions like more and more shopping, bigger and stronger Lattes, quadruple shot shooters, different, stronger, harder drugs.

And as the author Kasey Klimes points out so beautifully in the essay, the experience on the bicycle takes us in an ‘alive’ direction – it connects us to the places we ride through; it is “an instrument of experiential understanding” that changes scary, unknown neighbourhoods into places we know and understand. The bicycle tour of neighbourhoods transforms the terms city planners use to help them to work with highly complex systems (our cities)  into experiences we’ve had – pictures we can summon from our memories – after just one good ride.

And soon, visions of ways to make these places better occurs to us – because we are good at this civilization stuff – we are really good at it. And thus a route to a conversation about our communities, our neighbourhoods – between our neighbourhoods opens – and our learning, changing, alive selves are re-born.


Kasey Klimes – “ The Real Reason Why Bicycles are the Key to Better Cities” -  originally published at Secret Republic – April 14th 2011. (archive).

Robert M. Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – 1974

Jane Jacobs -  The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) – required reading on urban planning

Karl Polanyi  – “The Great Transformation” (1957) – read an excerpt from The Great Transformation…


Posted: May 23rd, 2011
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The Dragon, the Buffalo and the Fly

Sometimes bicycle rides have themes. On a ride Friday, May 20th I noticed two. The following was originally published as ‘The Train the Buffalo and the Fly’ -  theme II of the ‘Cars doing rolling stops…‘ post from that day.

- now edited for betterness – with extra metaphors for added laughiness – I hope:

Theme II …

I should note here that in my old age – and as a political posture that I hope will help to bring road users together – and because I am no longer racing around the core trying to make enough money to pay my rent delivering messages (impossible) – I’ve become an extreme traffic law obey-or.

Ten years ago my driving habits were a lot different. Working both as a bicycle messenger (in a box bounded by Dufferin, Eglinton and Carlaw Ave – but mostly in the deep core: University, College, Jarvis (see map) ) — and as a piece-worker, and as a human being with fragile skin — I learned that to survive/thrive in the 2 tonne jungle, a working cyclist had to break many of the traffic laws that were designed with-out cycling in mind.

Now, I avoid busy streets and when I have to take them during busy hours, I obey traffic laws strictly.

As a counter point and an example of how my riding has changed, today I saw a fellow, about my age with a lot of bad driving habits that I once had as well. I was heading east on Queen Street East just past Leslie Street at about mid-day, heading towards the Beaches. Traffic along Queen at this time is building to a noon time rush hour. It’s dangerous as hell – people are experiencing low sugar and are in a rush, with only one hour to get to where they’re going to eat, eat, and get back to work. There’s a street car just ahead, and I’m watching from well back as a cyclist joins the roadway in front of me. As the blocks go by he falls behind the street car and a gaggle of cars stuck behind the train. It’s noon as I said, so there’s parking allowed and there’s no room for cars to pass the street car except after street car stops and at the odd space when there are no cars are parked for a long stretch.

The cars as well as the cyclist are operating on auto pilot – they’re not seeing the situation around them – they’re neurotic – they’re trying to change their circumstance by doing stuff that doesn’t change the circumstance – no matter how many times they try it. They all seem intent on passing the street car – out in front of which they must imagine an idyllic roadway lined with green trees and blue skies that stretches to the horizon where a rainbow arch marks the spot their solace lies.

The thundering mass of steel and fumes in front reminds me of a herd of running buffalo kicking up a dust storm in their wake. The cyclist darting to and fro in amongst these beasts can only be a fly – he’s so small and insignificant, a hairs breath from an accidental squashing. The whole group; the train, the buffalo and the fly do this dance forever. All of a sudden the train becomes a dragon as the buffalo seem have turned into dogs jockeying for position, nipping at the tail of a dragon they must slay.

But from my point of view there is no point to it – they can’t see outside the little box they’re stuck in – they’re intoxicated with their ritual, they must slay their dragon.

So, as the the circus of ‘buffalo dog the dragon’ reaches it’s top speed the fly falls off the chase, only to catch it again as the dragon stops to ‘feed’. The little fly doesn’t just stop when he catches up though – instead he crawls his way to the front of the snorting beasts, maybe to taste the dragon, but, just as he gets to the dragon’s wings (which it is written, no person shall pass – be they either two wheeled or four) the dragon resumes it’s way, and the fly is caught in the impatient zig-zag, gas and brake, farts billowing at dragons heels again.

The fact is the bike and street car and the rush hour traffic all average the SAME SPEED – but from where the cyclist is he can’t see what is obvious from just behind – he’s sprinting like a bat out of hell, pushed up against the curb while trying to stay ahead of the stampede. He’s focused on the pavement flying under his front wheel, watching just ahead for ‘accident pot-holes’ (spots where the road is in such bad repair – usually around storm drains and patches over past excavations – where the road can literally ‘swallow’ a bike by slamming the front wheel into a hole that the wheel’s diametre cannot rotate out of – thus causing a serious, and extremely dangerous ass-over-tea-kettle event). As such, with each of his attempts to leave behind the melee, he peddles himself into the deadly matrix – which it – itself, is blinding him to the solution to the conundrum.

Isn’t the universe wonderful?

Meanwhile, I’m riding stress-free about 40 feet behind – calmly falling back and catching the tail of this jabberwocky just as it begins to pull away again.

Just past Greenwood two cabs are 1, 2 – in line beside the stopped street car. It’s obvious their both planing to gun it as the doors close — almost in their grasp, a victory over an idea that exists only in their heads… .

As the light turns the cyclist buzzes off the curb and in front of Cab #1 just as he guns the accelerator for Victory.

From where I am, all I see the red brake lights of the second cab come on as the rear of the cab lifts – then bounces – a quick dangerous stop — then I see why. The first cab has had to slam on his breaks because the cyclist has taken his right-full 1 metre off the curb and there is no room between the street car the cyclist and the end of the runway (mix in another metaphor, what the hell – confused yet?)

The fly has become Lance Armstrong up on his peddles, dancing back and forth up a mountain at the Tour de France – determined as he is, to get away from this cow-pie he’s in.

Almost a rear-end accident – and a minute later the buffalo are dogging the dragon and the cyclist is still a fly.

I turn north at Scarborough Road and leave them to their lot.


Posted: May 22nd, 2011
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