The bike is said to symbolize human reason at work. To quote Angela Carter’s ‘Lady of the house of Love’, “To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion.” Although here Carter is referring to the fear of the super natural, this theory can also be applied to Lance Nixon’s work.
I first came across Nixon in late 2010 with his publically interactive piece based in London, ‘Roadrunner 2’. Inspired by, or some may say in retaliation to the ‘Boris bikes’ installed earlier that summer. Nixon collected over 300 old bikes, saving them from scrap and placed them around zones 2 and 3, as the Boris bikes only covered zone 1 at the time. These bikes were chained outside tube stations, in bike shelters and on streetlights with signs attached giving the user information on how to operate the bikes. Nixon specified here that the bikes could be used for any length of time and could be left wherever best suited the user so long as they were locked up. This free alternative that was given to commuters on the 27th of September resulted in only 9,000 people taking out a Boris bike on that day in comparison to the usual 14,000.
Although most of the bikes where inevitably stolen by the end of the day, the aim of Nixon’s interactive stunt was achieved. He gave daily commuters an alternative to the faults of the Boris bikes which made, and continue to make, revenue from unavoidable late fees due to the docking station to bike ratio.
Nixon came into the public sphere of performance and interactive art in 2007 when he debuted with his piece ‘Roadrunner’ based in New York City, which worked similarly to it’s sequel in London. Nixon was criticized for critiquing such new systems but has since commented that he was simply trying to “expose existing problems before the general public comes to accept them as fact.’” With this statement we can apply Nixon’s work to a much wider context, going beyond the realm of city politics and into semiotics, proving that his work not only provides comment on existing systems but also challenges them.
Alongside interactive art, Nixon is also well known for creating sculptural pieces using bikes. His piece ‘Speed’ (2009) consists of two bikes warped individually in their centers, which come together to create a circular form, whilst still appearing to be functional. As Carter describes in ‘the Lady of the house of love’, bikes are a symbol of reason, and by warping these two bikes into a continual circle and titling the composition ‘speed’ we can interpret this as a juxtaposition between the way that companies use materials to make profit as fast as possible, thus creating and continuing a cycle of profit.
Ultimately Nixon uses the art sphere and the symbolism of the bike as a way of exploiting both truths and lies simultaneously, contrasting reason with unreason and creating opportunities where the ‘readers’ use of systems come before the ‘authors’ benefit of it.