aLIVe: our launch event at Seward Park
by Cheryl dos Remedios
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aLIVe: a Low Impact Vehicle exploration
One August morning, unusual vehicles appeared in Seward Park: a remote-controlled living wall that could transform streetscape into greenspace; an astronaut training apparatus where kids could explore ideas about human power; a giant, two-wheeled contraption that let riders walk and roll. A sociable (side by side, two person) tricycle with randomized music provided the soundtrack. These were just some of the playful, visionary exhibits that began to spark the imagination and expand our sense of what is possible.
The aLIVe launch event took place on August 22, 2009 at Seward Park in Seattle. We chose to exhibit at an urban park with a paved path so that event-goers could experience the projects. It was an exceptional collaboration, much weirder and more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. Below is a collection of photographs and artists’ statements describing the day’s happenings.
Peter Reiquam designed and built the Walk and Roll. “Inspired by a picture I remember seeing of a modern dance troupe performing with large diameter bicycle wheels as part of their costumes, I tried to imagine how the devices might be used and how I could interpret this stage prop to create a low impact vehicle that would conserve energy and be fun to ride. The prototype I’m displaying is entitled Walk and Roll. . . . Two large wheels, five and a half feet in diameter are linked by an axle. The rider stands between the wheels, the axle attached to a hoop that encircles the rider. The rider can bend his/her legs, sit in a sling-seat suspended from the central ring, pick up his/her feet and begin to roll. . . .” Pete’s contraption was extremely popular, and adults and children lined-up all day to take a ride. The most amazing thing was how easily the Walk and Roll pivots to change directions. It’s big, yes, but it’s very smooth and easy to operate.
The Nopcicle Joe by Clair Colquitt is a sociable (side by side two person pedaling) recumbent tricycle with a rumble seat and randomized music. Like Pete’s Walk & Roll, the Nopcicle Joe was super popular, keeping Clair busy giving rides all day.
Each aLIVe entry was reviewed by Seattle Stranger art critic Jen Graves, artist Lorna Jordan, artist Buster Simpson and Seattle Art Museum environmental steward Jackie White. Their serious yet lighthearted judging resulted in the presentation of artist-made trophies to several of the participants, including Clair.
meadow starts with p (MSWP) was the surprise hit of the day. “A Seattle-based group of artists working to formulate connections between play and art,” Andy Peterson and his daughter wowed the crowds with their low-key performance. “The astronaut training apparatus prepares the younger members of the group for activities in space. Our training apparatus is a human-powered vehicle that provides basic space-craft training, such as craft maneuvering and navigation, communications protocol, button pushing, and being strapped in to something white and silver. Our contribution to aLIVe is to emphasize the flexibility of human-powered motion as a means of transportation, and to suggest the possibility that such power can be practically used in space (and beyond).”
T’ilibshudub (Singing Feet) is the Duwamish Tribe’s language and dance group. We were honored to have them perform a welcoming ceremony in the late morning, connecting us to the tribe’s sustainable philosophies. “This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know, all things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.” –Chief Si’ahl, Namesake of the City of Seattle. [While the translation of Chief Si’ahl’s legendary speech was not timely or precise, the Duwamish continue to honor his intent by repeating these words.]
“Songs are a way for us to express love. Songs can give us strength and blessings. Songs can express prayers and feelings that no words can describe. Many songs have been passed down to us by our ancestors. Many songs involve dancing. Through dance we can express songs in a way that gives life to the meaning of a song in a visual context. A dance reenacts the words and feelings of the song. The dancer dances the song, while the singer sings the dancer. The drum is a traditional instrument of the Duwamish. The beat of the drum expresses the rhythms of life. The drumbeat is the heartbeat of the First People.”
Mid-day, the choreographer Alex Martin invited us to join her flash mob performance of Barefoot in the Park. We’re a little short on photographs of this performance, but I can attest to how wonderful it felt to walk across the warm, dry August grass, and I am happy to share Alex’s tongue-in-cheek Barefoot in the Park manifesto.
“The ultimate low impact vehicle is the human foot, perfected through a million-year design process to carry the human body across the surface of the earth at slow speeds perfectly calibrated for work, play, conversation, and the enjoyment of life. Walking while wearing the footwear of your choice is a time-honored method of commuting, exercising, and enjoying the outdoors. Pedestrian corridors are a part of every smart urban plan for the future. . . . But Barefoot in the Park goes one step further, to explore a radical and happily ridiculous proposal: the surfaces of our city should be re-designed to provide, along every major thoroughfare, a Barefoot Walking Lane of soft native ground covers adjacent to the traditional impervious sidewalks, curbs, and bicycle lanes of the future. If such a Barefoot Walking Lane existed, how would it be used, by whom, and how often? Living barefoot outdoors is a quality-of-life enhancement that is an option only for humans living in remote wilderness areas. How long will urban dwellers wait before we rise up, throw off the concrete shackles, and demand a re-design of the street to allow us to move through our city the way nature intended, on our feet – our bare feet? . . . Barefoot in the Park is your chance to experience first-hand the joy of barefoot walking and help us promote the bare foot, our most radical low impact vehicle.”
“aLIVe” took place during the Seattle Parks “Healthy Parks, Healthy You” event, which included a morning fun run, vendor booths, and an afternoon concert. On the edge of the meadow alongside a curving path, the aLIVe exhibitors congregated. Alex’s performance swung through our area, weaved through the vendor booths, and led us to the lake and back again.
If We Could Move Forward, In Good Faith, By Our Intentions Alone is a drawing collage on panel that was exhibited by Susanna Bluhm. When Susanna described her work to the judges, she spoke softly. Our group leaned in to hear her describe her thoughts about direction, for example, we read from left to right, while some cultures read from right to left. Susanna continued to talk about direction for several minutes, often repeating the phrase “left, right.” Meanwhile, on the Seattle Parks’ stage, a dance instructor’s amplified voice blared LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT, enthusiastically encouraging everyone to dance. It was an unintentionally synchronized moment.
Joe Kochanowski has built a collection of Lowracer Streamliner Velomobiles. The bicycles he builds are designed for fast long distance commuting with some cargo. Most have a race history. None are mass produced, factory chassis or body work.
The All-Terrain by Nicole Kistler is a self-propelled living screen. It is a lushly planted, living, breathing amenity that is extremely versatile for a rugged urban environment.
“The All-Terrain plays off the image of the Monster Truck/giant SUV and makes fun of it by making it green. The All-Terrain makes some of the same claims as these vehicles as well, “bringing you closer to nature,” “going anywhere,” and “providing maximum comfort.” The All-Terrain celebrates green technology and provides a public opportunity to see these living systems close up, while making the discussion fun and accessible. The All-Terrain also helps the audience image the public right-of-way as a different kind of space. The All-Terrain, is a traveling landscape element, like a hedge on wheels. It can quickly transform a streetscape almost instantly from car-dominated to one with amenities to enhance the pedestrian experience.”
Paper Truck is a project that was put together by the children of YMCA Camp Colman under the direction of Arts Director Lucas Deon Spivey. “The Paper Truck attempts to address the air quality of our highways by collecting evidence of pollution onto the skin of the vehicles that cause it. As the Paper Truck drives to the aLIVe show it will collect dirt, dust, smog, sprays and bugs becoming a moving canvas to exhibit the condition of the highway environment.”
“The Paper Truck is 8 layers of reclaimed outdated printer rolls paper-machéd to the surface of a 1987 Ford Ranger pick-up truck. The choice of paper is relevant because it is a lightweight, recyclable and affordable alternative to steel, a heavier more expensive material to build with and to move along the road. The official EPA Fuel Economy for the 1987 Ford Ranger’s 2.9 liter V-6 engine with manual transmission is 17/22 and the estimated carbon footprint is 9.6 tons per year of CO2. The white skin of the Paper Truck then becomes a metaphor for the ghosts of past vehicles and standards that are no longer viable for our current environmental concerns.”
Vaughn Bell’s Vehicles for Slowness is not an object but a series of instructions and actions. We distributed her instructional pamphlet throughout the day, and we still have some copies available. If you’d like one, mail a self-addressed, stamped, letter-sized envelope to Great City, PO Box 599, Seattle, WA, 98111.
Kristin Tollefson displayed her bicycle cargo carrier. It is hand-built out of sustainable materials. The title, Ricochet is a play on rickshaw and the act of reclaiming. Kristin credits Nick Lobnitz with creating the original Bamboo Bike Trailer. His plans are available at www.carryfreedom.com. Kristin’s project won the People’s Choice Award.
The Undriver Licensing Station was solar powered at aLIVe. It is a program of Sustainable Ballard and Urban Sparks, with sponsorship from PCC Natural Markets.
“undriving.org encourages you to get licensed to undrive! Just make a pledge to reduce your car use in the coming month – or car use on the planet – and get your own official Undriver License, along with free tickets from King County METRO. Undriving Undrivers have free license to reconsider transportation choices on a daily basis, experiment with different ways of getting around, and share discoveries with others. (Warning: Undriving can be hazardous to your stress! Other benefits to watch out for include saving money, better health, increased fitness, more community connectedness, even more time.) All ages welcome! Visit undriving.org for more info.”
The LIV DIY (low impact vehicle do-it-yourself) table was a collaboration between project organizer Cheryl dos Remédios and SvR Design, with a special thanks to Brice Maryman, Phil Miller and Peg Staeheli. SvR Design also hosted The Haiku Project, asking visitors to describe new visions for a world filled with Low Impact Vehicles.
In addition to the exhibition at Seward Park, during summer 2009 we also participated in Summer Streets on Rainier Avenue; PARK(ing) Day at the Seattle Art Museum; and the aforementioned Americans for the Arts reception at Freeway Park. I am deeply grateful to everyone who participated – exhibitors, sponsors and event-goers alike!
Artist Cheryl dos Remedios founded and organizes aLIVe. She is grateful to the aLIVe artists, inventors and volunteers who participated in the August exhibition at Seward Park. aLIVe is hosted by Great City, in partnership with the Streets for People Coalition. Sponsors include 4Culture, Cascade Bicycle, greenmuseum.org, Anne McDuffie, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Seattle Parks & Recreation, Seattle Summer Streets, SvR Design, Perla Sitcov and Talking Box Media.
Images by Perla Sitcov and SvR Design, 2009.