Bicyclette Ensevelie (Buried Bicycle)
Parc de la Villette, Paris
Steel, aluminum, fiber-reinforced plastic; painted with polyurethane enamel
Four elements, in an area approximately 150 ft. 11 in. x 71 ft. 2 in. (46 x 21.7 m)
wheel: 9 ft. 2 in. x 53 ft. 4 in. x 10 ft. 4 in. (2.8 x 16.3 x 3.2 m)
handlebar and bell: 23 ft. 8 in. x 20 ft. 5 in. x 15 ft. 7 in. (7.2 x 6.2 x 4.7 m)
seat: 11 ft. 4 in. x 23 ft. 9 in. x 13 ft. 7 in. (3.5 x 7.2 x 4.1 m)
pedal: 16 ft. 4 in. x 20 ft. 1 in. x 6 ft. 11 in. (5.0 x 6.1 x 2.1 m)
Commissioned November 1985 by Etablissement Public du Parc de la Villette
Installed November 1990
Coosje's thoughts on Samuel Beckett's anti-hero Molloy -- who falls off his bicycle and finds himself lying in a ditch unable to recognize the object -- prompted her selection of a bicycle as the subject for an "intervention" we had been asked to propose by the French Ministry of Culture. The work was to be incorporated into the new Parc de la Villette, designed by the architect Bernard Tschumi, on the outskirts of Paris. The bicycle has close ties to France, having been invented there and celebrated in the Tour de France. Its parts have also been featured in art, from Picasso's bull's head made out of a bicycle seat and handlebars to Marcel Duchamp's bicycle wheel mounted on a stool. In fact, we decided that the parts and details were better subjects for a configuration of sculptural elements than the unwieldy whole; our solution was to bury most of the vehicle. Doing this allowed us to select a large scale appropriate to the park's wide spaces. We settled on an invisible bicycle, 150 feet 11 inches long, with the front wheel turned slightly so that a portion would protrude above the ground, and plotted the locations of a pedal, one half of the seat, and one handlebar with a bell, using a sawed-up standard bicycle that our daughter had outgrown as a model. Where Molloy's bicycle bell had been red, the Buried Bicycle's would be blue, in contrast to a number of red "follies" the architect had placed in the park.
The inevitability of the placement of the parts in relation to one another as defined by the bicycle mimicked the grid of the park. At the same time, however, our self-contained configuration was dropped as if by chance over that of the park, causing the pedal to intrude on the courtyard of the Folie Belvédère and the space occupied by a group of Philippe Starck chairs. We responded to this by simply turning the pedal, our bicycle pedaling on.
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