Zen and the New Media Art of Bicycle Mechanics

A new media art project by James W. Morris

James W. Morris == james jwm-art net

Is a self motivated project initiated at the beginning of March 2008 seeking to draw something from all aspects of making, in which this artist is creatively engaged. These areas include painting, drawing, visual digital art, digital audio, and digital (computer based) music.

Besides these, the project will involve aspects of code. There will be codeworks - text/writing incorporating creative expression with computer programming like syntax and arrangement - and actual working programming in the form of PHP scripts which at a later date in the project will create the project's HTML pages.

Some people have argued and continue to do so, that computer programming can be a form of art. A well known author, programmer, and essayist Paul Graham has written an essay on the parallels between Hackers and Painters as one such proponent of similar ideas.

Many programmers agree, many do not. Many digital artists agree, many do not. What can be said about computer programming in relation to art is that both have the ability to give a sense of wonder. More commonly perhaps for a computer program is this sense of wonder achieved by technical cleverness. However, many programmers once they attain a certain level of skill with a computer programming language will experience a sense of wonder or beauty at the possibilities that language provides. Personally, I sometimes gain a sense of wonder that I have actually managed to program something such as this.

Bicycle mechanics: I make paintings in a section of garage purposely converted to a studio - that is two boards fixed to the garage brick wall and painted white. Each board being large enough to stretch 1.5 x 2.0 metre sheets of paper. This is also a place where I store my mountain bike and perform maintenance of it.

With my childhood spent on a small farm, I was always looking at parts of machinery and exploring dusty corners and climbing up, across, down, into, and amongst THINGS. I feel a connection to my garage come studio, to the old car and old tractor parts stored in there. The rusty old tins. Wires. Dust. Concrete. Brick. Paintings. Paint splodges. Pots of colours of paint. Unmixed acrylic paint ingredients.


Many a time when somking a cigarette while taking a break from programming have I looked at the barn my Dad built, the things he has welded together, the mower he constructed to be towed behind a tractor. THe tractor engines he has rebuilt or dismantled. And I've thought or felt there to be a strong connection between what he does and what I do. The arrangement of parts. The arrangement of pre-built parts. The modification of parts. Construction. Fitting together. The fix.

Zen and the New Media Art of Bicycle Mechanics

Zen? What zen? Spontaneity is all.

Artworks created up to date: 10th March 2008

A text using a code-like structure to introduce/announce the beginning of this project

zen_and_the_new_media_art_of_bicycle_mechanics_intro.png (5.9mb @ 1704 x 2272 px)
A PNG image which the intruction points to

mtb_assembly_ok.mp3 (1.1mb)
MP3 audio which the introduction points to

The following works concentrate on an arrangement of bicycle parts on a concrete paint-spattered floor. Most of the images are around 2mb in size.

mz comp te comp#2 bn (plain text posted to netbehaviour for networked distributed mailing list)
Plain text file containing URLs of four images created for this project. Also a few words about them.

This is the components arranged and photographed from above. The image has been tinkered with only a little.

This image does not include the arrangement of components. Instead the handlebars and forks are photographed and heavy manipulation aiming to capture a painterly feel was performed on the image.

This features my legs and various other things besides the component arrangement. Processing was also heavy aiming for a spattery Pollock-like surface. (It reminds me of a more contempory artist's work who I've long forgotten).

This is a close-up of the component arrangement from a perspective hinting at architecture or an amusemtns park.

The next two works having been made now that the new components have been fitted to the mountain bike and tested on two 16 mile round trips to work. (The first trip stayed to the roads, while the second took a few detours to go off-road).

zen_mtb_update.txt (plain text)
Another post describing the updates to the project.

new_chainset.jpg (268kb)
A digitally manipulated photograph of the new chainset fitted to the new bottom bracket fitted to the frame. The new front and rear derailleurs, and new chain, and new rear cassette are also fitted but out of view.

bb_install_notes.mp3 (1.9mb)
A recording of myself reading the install notes from some fitting instructions, speaking down a long metal tube. Mixed in with this is a recording of some wind chimes I made using the dismantled sprockets from the old rear cassette (SRAM PG970), and a convulted version, plus a few more FX

night rider

text/post detailing a spontaneous 1 hour night ride @ 2200 hrs and 11 photographs taken.

11 night ride photographs:
all are small images with small filesize, very quick to download even via dialup.

Mountain Bike Zen and the New Media Mechanics of Art

text/post detailing latest computer composition music piece stemming from this project. processes, technical detail, and ideas mentioned.

the computer music composition narrative audio piece itself (6.1 mb 05:04 mm:ss variable bit rate)

Tapering off now...

very brief introductory txt to mtb_ppst-0.1 (below).

a text with link to testvoice.mp3 (below) but also containing a brief autobiographical description of some things interesting happening earlier in the day.

date right now:26th March 2008 :: 2318hrs

UPDATE: 30th June 2008

Using this bike, I entered my first ever MTB race last week at Fowlmead Country Park, it was the third race of the THE INTERCROP FOWLMEAD COUNTRY PARK MTB SERIES. I did not know what to expect and decided I would take it easy to begin with and let lots of riders overtake me during the first lap. I soon got frustrated with how slow the riders ahead of me were cornering and as they thinned out during the next couple of laps I gradually found more opportunity to overtake. The race was to last for an hour, but on what I thought would be my final lap - the clock read 1hr 10 minutes - the riders ahead kept going so I followed them.

I did five laps in total (if I recall correctly and there's a chance I don't) which took me 1hr 25 minutes, roughly 16 miles at 11mph average. I was pleased to come 18th out of 67 riders: RACE RESULTS.

This was also the first time I had cycled around the offroad course at Fowlmead. I did a practice lap before hand with Kent Trails to warm up and get an idea of what was ahead. The course was a lot more twisty and turny than I am used to but had no problems with that. There are also lots of small ups and downs and a few steep semi-drop-downs which after an 1 1/2 hours took it's toll on my back. On the other hand, my legs were ok with it, and there were no serious climbs compared with what I'm used to (and that's riding in Kent).

Will definitely be doing this again!

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