Gravel - Cycle Oregon

The “Cyclisk” in California: Bike-friendly beacon or a bicycle memorial?

Posted by on September 8th, 2010 at 11:21 am

The City of Santa Rosa California (about 55 miles north of San Francisco) installed a new piece of public art last month that’s worth a look. The “Cyclisk” is a monumental, 60-foot tall, Egyptian style obelisk sculpture made by artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector that is made out of recycled bikes.

Check it out below the jump…

The “Cyclisk”, five stories of bikes!
(Photo: City of Santa Rosa)

Besides the fact that it’s made out of hundreds of used bikes, what strikes me about the sculpture is that it’s located in the middle of a bunch of auto dealerships and it was paid for by Nissan of Santa Rosa to fulfill their “1% for the Arts” requirement (they’re building a new dealership nearby). Given the funding from a car company and the fact that obelisks are often erected as memorials to dead people, I’m starting to wonder what kind of message this sends.

Artist Mark Grieve says the Cyclisk is “a series of intersecting rhythms – a visual metaphor for the human experience – technology and the humanities – history and the future – individual and collective.” Artist Ilana Spector says that, “…the City is psyched the sculpture will solidify Santa Rosa as bike-friendly.”

I’m probably over-thinking this. It’s a very cool sculpture, I’m just curious if I’m the only one thinking about it like this. What do you think? Is this a beacon of bike-friendliness or a sly move by an auto company to show that bikes are dead? Would Nissan have funded an “Autoisk”?

— Read more about the project on the City of Santa Rosa’s website.

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40 Comments
  • Evan September 8, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Strikes me as a monument to a previous technology.

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  • Schrauf September 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

    The link to the City’s website does not imply another motive. I doubt Nissan had too much say in the actual art piece. But only the artist knows for sure. Could simply be a lack of understanding of the meaning of as symbol.

    “Made of recycled bicycle gears, rims, frames and hoops, [Cyclisk] will be a series of intersecting rhythms – a visual metaphor for the human experience – technology and the humanities – history and the future – individual and collective. Evoking a ‘world of possibilities,’ it will be a work communicating to all walks of life – all ages, relevant for years to come….”

    “When we looked at the spot, it seemed like something tall was needed on this odd little shape of land in Santa Rosa. That got me thinking about the Circus Maximus,” Grieve explained. “At the end of Santa Rosa Avenue, it felt like a visual turning point on the road. We want to add to Santa Rosa a visual landmark that would have enough presence to compete visually with the surrounding environment.”

    Spector added, “Collecting unusable parts from the debris piles of nonprofit community bike projects has proven to be a win-win; community bike DIY places are thrilled unusable parts are not becoming land fill and the City is psyched the sculpture will solidify Santa Rosa as bike-friendly.”

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  • bob September 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    One Sycip leaves town and the whole place goes to hell.
    At least we’ll have a visual cue, a focal point of intersecting rhythms to dance around when the car dealers are in flames.

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  • Elliot September 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Reading the city website, it doesn’t sound to me that the car dealership had any input on content of the art piece. Also, quotes from community members and nearby business owners in this news article seem to indicate that most people see Cyclisk as being pro-bike.

    Contrast the Cyclisk with the dead bike frames hung at Hopworks… which is a “monument”, and which is a “memorial”? The decor at Hopworks has always seemed very morbid to me.

    I guess we have to rebuild the ZooBomb monument now – 16 feet tall in Portland, versus 60 feet tall in Santa Rosa? No wonder we’re not the #1 bike city in the US any more. We may look back and see this as the starting point of a bicycle art arms race…

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  • Bob_M September 8, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Don’cha see? It represents the common man’s eternal quest for fulfillment in an increasingly inhuman world. No, I mean it represents a soaring spirit launching upward from a mundane mechanical existence.

    Or maybe it is a shape an artist got paid to construct out of cheap materials.

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  • Johnny September 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve personally never heard of any obelisk being erected in memorial of a person or thing’s death, though some (such as the Washington Monument) may serve to honor someone who happens to be dead. Wikipedia makes no mention of this phenomenon, either. You may be overthinking a bit. Your point is worth considering, though.

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  • jeff September 8, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    yes, you’re overthinking this.

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  • daniel miles September 8, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I just can’t believe car-people spend enough time thinking about bicycles to have thought about sending a message, this is probably just a cool sculpture.

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  • Joe September 8, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Reminds me of burning man. haha

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  • jeff September 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    i’ve never thought of an obelisk as a memorial. just reminds me of kubrick’s 2001 🙂 looks cool to me.

    ps – jeff – who are you? i’ve been posting to bp as ‘jeff’ for four years… oh well.

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  • Matti September 8, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I’d like to see compressed autos at the base that gradually tranisitions to compressd bike frames at the top of the obelisk.

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  • Dave September 8, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    My automatic response is also “you’re overthinking it,” but I see your point. There is something a little off-putting about a pillar of crushed bicycles in a sea of new cars. I’m sure it wasn’t the intent, but you do have to consider context in art, especially a permanent installation like this one. An old ship is a tourist attraction in a harbor, and a memorial at an airport.

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  • TVcommuter September 8, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I think it looks pretty cool.

    I was planning to go sightseeing in Cairo or Istanbul – but now I think I’ll just go to Santa Rosa.

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  • q`Tzal September 8, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Puny Humans!
    Your ZooBomb pile is unworthy!
    Cower in shame at the diminutive stature of your art!
    /Morbo

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  • matt picio September 8, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Obelisks adorned the entrances of temples and symbolized Ra, the sun god.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obelisk

    Maybe Santa Rosa wants to be a temple for bikes – certainly California is associated with Sun, I think this is pretty cool, though I’d rather see hundreds of bikes out on the roads rather than mashed up into an obelisk.

    As for Nissan – they’ve built a lot more than cars over the years. It’s entirely possible when the handwriting is clearly on the wall that they might build bikes. Panasonic did, as have other Japanese companies over the years – weirder things have happened, and I respect that they adhered to the art requirement rather than trying to get around it.

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  • jordan September 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    How many bike died for this monument? They could’ve been refurbished and put back to use.

    That said, it is a cool looking art piece.

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  • Perry Hunter September 8, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    “…a series of intersecting rhythms – a visual metaphor for the human experience – technology and the humanities – history and the future – individual and collective. Evoking a ‘world of possibilities,’ it will be a work communicating to all walks of life – all ages, relevant for years to come….” – holy cow, do people really believe stuff like that when they write it?

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  • trail abuser September 8, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    This is like cutting off the ears of your dead enemies and wearing them around your neck.

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  • 9watts September 8, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    First off I think the term ‘recyled’ isn’t so apt here. It is used much too indiscriminately these days and in the process loses most of its meaning. ‘Bikes were appropriated’ might be a better phrase.
    Secondly, I’ve noticed that others also don’t think through the semiotics of their public (transport-related) art. Tonkin’s mural at the West end of the Morrison bridge is just one local example. Or can someone explain what is going on in that image?

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  • Jim Labbe September 8, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Looks like a zoobomb pile.

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  • sabernar September 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    #17 – I was thinking the same thing. It seems like he just picked some artsy buzzwords and mashed them up. I don’t think his description of his piece actually means anything.

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  • q`Tzal September 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    I wonder how many cars were inconvenienced for the erection of this bike tower in the promised land of car superiority?

    Also: daniel miles #8
    I just can’t believe car-people spend enough time thinking about bicycles…

    The problem is people in general, not just auto drivers, don’t spend enough time thinking about anything; ourselves included.

    Oops, did I just post a self-incriminating statement? I guess I’ll need to think that through next time.

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  • q`Tzal September 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    sabernar #20

    Sounds like a case of “anything can be art”.
    The inverse corollary of that would be “any art is also a pile of junk” which seems appropriate to this sculpture.

    Shortest summary:
    Art: YMMV

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  • BURR September 8, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    It sure is a waste of a lot of good bike frames

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  • BURR September 8, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    “Collecting unusable parts from the debris piles of nonprofit community bike projects has proven to be a win-win; community bike DIY places are thrilled unusable parts are not becoming land fill and the City is psyched the sculpture will solidify Santa Rosa as bike-friendly.”

    I find it hard to believe that all of those parts are unusable. For example, the CCC recycles or landfills plenty of usable bike parts. So just because a community bike nonprofit doesn’t want the stuff doesn’t mean it’s ‘unusable’.

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  • 9watts September 8, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Right, but thanks to the magic of the term ‘recycling’ everyone wins–even the bikes. Get it?

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  • wsbob September 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Maybe it’s just the camera angle, but in the above City of Santa Rosa photo, the bike scrap obelisk seems ugly. By some coincidence, maybe wrens and sparrows will find they can make nests in the spaces between the bike parts. That would make for an interesting evolutionary phase of this thing.

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  • Roland September 8, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    That’s a lot of dead bikes in there. I don’t know for sure, yet would be willing to bet, that the definition of an “unusable” bike part has more to do with its economic viability than whether it’s actually usable or not. For example if an old wheel needs an hour (say $20) of mechanic time (to true or rebuild) to be sellable, but the shop can only hope to get $20 for it, then it goes in the scrap heap. Yet a small investment of work would put that wheel to use at a lower entropy level, which is its highest & noblest use. Instead it goes to the scrap pile and gets put into this sculpture, which I would argue is a higher entropy level, serving as it does, not as a wheel, which has certain special properties, but essentially as a simple brute piece of steel to hold up other pieces of steel. There are plenty of simpler steel shapes that’ll work for that. Therefore using a bike wheel like this is a waste of the human effort that went into making it into a wheel in the first place. (Even though it’s still a pretty cool sculpture.)

    The disappearance of fossil fuels will eventually correct the economic aberration that causes this, as the steady flow of cheap new (wheels, parts, bikes, you name it) won’t be so cheap anymore.

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  • Machu Picchu September 8, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    A Portlandian envoy must be dispatched at once to get the goods on this oblisk. What does it really look like? Are the parts usable? Is it cool?

    Unlike the Krebs conundrum, our agent could retrieve all the facts right now. Or soon. Especially one of us who’s willing to make the obligatory rationalization and then drive there. Maybe in a Nissan.

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  • drew September 8, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Perhaps a more interesting sculpture would be complete (recognizable) bikes welded together into a tower. The confusion of dead parts doesn’t do much for me. And it does seem a waste. Think of all the tallbikes you could make. I don’t see how that pile honors bikes or bicycling in general.
    Santa Rosa was one of the most bike-unfriendly cities I have ever ridden in (having pedaled many miles in it about 8 years ago). Lots of angry motorists not interested in sharing the road.

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  • Hart September 8, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    This monument to the bicycle is going to cast one big shadow over the dithering auto industry.

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  • Felix September 8, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I think someone’s been punked. Cyclists, mostly. Think if a cycling group had a cube of crushed old model cars out front of its business, the message would be pretty clear. Squash ’em and trash ’em!

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  • slowneasy September 9, 2010 at 4:59 am

    there are a couple of interesting aspects to this sculpture that I think of. Try not to take it as a statement against bikes. So, when it rains, water is going to be trickling down all the various parts and sound may be produced. And corrosion over time will leave an impact and that will be interesting to see. Santa Rosa does get rain.

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  • Red Five September 9, 2010 at 6:14 am

    It’s at least as much “art” as most of the garbage that gets displayed around Portland which is supposedly art.

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  • Seth D. Alford September 9, 2010 at 7:00 am

    There’s a lot of scrap metal masquerading as sculpture out there, and
    not just in Portland.

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  • Jonathon September 9, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Having begun my own descent into bicycle commuting riding up and down the very street on which this sculpture is placed, at last I can proudly say: WTF?

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  • wsbob September 9, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Seth #35…that’s not actually so bad. Maybe a wider view of in the plaza it sits on is necessary to appreciate what the students don’t like about it. There’s a scrap sculpture on the west side of the Portland Art Museum Mark annex (building that used to be the Masonic Temple). It’s worth a look for perspective.

    Some scrap sculpture has more of a compelling origin than others. Anybody out there reading that does not know of Cadillac Ranch?

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  • jim September 9, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Jonathan-
    Is that your blue bike near the bottom of the pile?

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  • Tankagnolo Bob September 9, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Jonathan – Being a fine arts college grad, I would say, don’t interpret it, just dig it. I used to hear “Its nice, but is it art”. Cool sculpture, hidden agenda or not !!

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  • John September 10, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Even though the car dealer didn’t come up with the idea, I’m pretty sure they could have chosen funding other sculptures if they like. NISSAN would definitely like this “monument of old technology”.

    The artists might have chosen this design in order to get funding from NISSAN.

    A shinning big bicycle instead of a monument of bikes would be a better piece to erect among the car dealers.

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