Join the Metaphysical Cyclist tour of Cambridge – aboard a striped bicycle
Artists and Gavin Turk and Adam Dant explore the city’s diverse artistic works on two wheels.
When we ask if the bicycle is the same ‘thing’ that it was before we mounted it, is this any different from asking if a sculpture was a different ‘thing’ before we looked at it?
Plenty more metaphysical musings like this are seeking to open the third eye of many a cyclist this summer as artist Gavin Turk hosts ‘The Metaphysical Cyclist’ tours.
Gavin is about a year and a half away from unveiling the sculpture that will crown Station Square in CB1, but in the meantime he’s partnered with Cambridge-born artist Adam Dant on a work that ties the city’s diverse artistic works with the bicycle – the ‘consummate metaphysical sculptural object’.
Three events are being hosted by Gavin in which participants will hop on one of Gavin’s 16 striped bicycles, touring the art of Cambridge and, on another level, become an animated work of art for the day.
Each bicycle is banded in colourful wood. Each one is unique (and for sale at an artsy £10,000), inspired by Romanian artist of the ’70s, André Cadere.
Gavin explained: “He was renowned for carrying these bars of coloured wood. He’d go into an exhibition space and later would write on his CV that he’d had an exhibition there.
“In a way his art was an object that initiated a performance; it would move the artwork off the wall and into that idea of a physical experience.
“I’ve hyperrealised the idea. I thought I could speed the bars up and spread them around and make a system where these props could make people be an artwork as they cycle around.
“They themselves are following the map and picking up on lots of other artwork and then we start to understand time dimensions – we’ve got inside and outside, space and time in relation to objects dotted around Cambridge which come more in and out of focus in relationship to various stories and analogies and different ways of thinking about these objects and seeing them in relation to where they actually are and how they affect the space they are in.
“Sometimes public sculptures are not seen, so it’s also a chance to just cycle and look.”
The tours are free events, although the map created by Adam Dant will afterwards be available at tourism outlets for anyone who wants to follow the trail on their own wheels.
Adam’s work has seen him create many maps, but despite being born in Cambridge this is the first he has created of the city.
“It was like making a map of my childhood memories,” Adam said, “and from the transformations that have taken place in Cambridge since.
“I can remember Reality Checkpoint and crossing Parker’s Piece in the mist. I can remember Henry VIII above Trinity College gate holding the chair leg. I can remember Snowy Farr standing outside the Guildhall with his cat on his top hat. Going back and seeing his memorial there gives you a jolt.
“I remember the bathers in the garden at Kelsey Kerridge pool where I used to swim as a kid.
“We were about nine years old and giggling because we thought they were nude people in the bushes. The sculptures are animated because some have moved since my childhood and have had their own life.”
But it’s not just sculptures that make the map.
“I wanted to show a range of things that went in and out of the town and the colleges,” Adam continued. “Things that could be sculptures but aren’t, such as the rocks outside the classics faculty at Sidgwick site. They have sculptural quality, and some other things that are quite random, like how someone in the ’60s wrote ‘Reality Checkpoint’ on the lampost in Parker’s Piece, turns it into an iconic site rather than just a lampost.
“The map includes things that embody the idea of transforming the physical into something more.”
Creating the map was like a puzzle, Adam said, choosing the different destinations that should be included and then connecting them ‘like the thread that gets you around the labyrinth’.
It was also inspired by days spent at the classics faculty. Adam would sketch the plaster casts in the university’s collection, and this has contributed to the classical style of the map.
“Gavin and I identified the station space as being straight out of a Giorgio de Chirico painting, an Italian metaphysical painter.
“He always has this distant perspective, so tonaly and perspectivally it’s from that Italian metaphysical pre-second world war style.”
“On the back there are more practical maps, giving arrows to show people exactly where to turn. And there are descriptions which are kind of like a satnav with a PhD.”
CB1 developer Brookgate partnered with Gavin to launch the tours.
Chief executive Sven Topel said: “This is a great opportunity to be part of a spectacular art event in Cambridge and to stop and appreciate the fantastic public art in the city.
“Gavin will give a real insight into the sculptures that surround us, but that we might not notice day to day.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the community come together; the fleet of bicycles should be an impressive sight!”
Gavin is hosting three tours on June 10, June 24, and July 8.
Tickets are available at eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-metaphysical-cyclist-tickets-45514852148.