James Dodd has always been fascinated with bikes but he has resisted the temptation to let them creep into his artwork. Until recently, that is, when he decided to bite the bullet and find out what would happen if these two worlds collided.
Last year he began working on some bike experiments culminating in his current exhibition, Sabotage at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (CACSA), which features a number of bike works interspersed with paintings. Dodd is particularly interested in people and objects that slightly bend or break the rules. “I am interested in things like hijacking and hacking and things that divert the path of what you usually expect. Sabotage fits all these things. It fits with the idea of breaking the rules and taking something and destroying it.” Several of the paintings in Sabotage are in Dodd’s familiar style where he collects scrawl from public places and reconstitutes it as a painting. In other works, the motif of a chain link fence reappears. Some of the fences have holes in them while others are pushed over representing the idea of breaking free and breaking down barriers. Presented alongside the paintings will be five to six bike projects. Dodd says: “It is somewhat of a formal play on this thing I am trying to work out. Considering what I have done in the past with painting, what I am interested in doing with bikes and whether there is a relationship there or not and whether it’s simple or what it is.” Dodd describes his work as stemming from small acts of social rebellion and things that test the boundaries of what we expect. This is evident in projects like Easel Rider, which he exhibited last year at Ryan Renshaw Gallery in Brisbane. The tall bike which has an easel attached to it is making a play on the notion of plein air and the Heidelberg School. The title Easel Rider also references the movie Easy Rider, which had a strong anti-establishment theme. According to Dodd, Easel Rider is at the end of its set of phases and thanks to some funding he has employed the skills of a professional bicycle frame builder, so it will be presented in a more refined form. “Most of the stuff I have been making with the bikes is pretty crusty and punk orientated, which is cool and totally an aesthetic I enjoy and celebrate, but I am curious to extend beyond that and see what happens when you make a really slick thing.” A recent trip to Indonesia inspired the work, Jukung Bike, named after the traditional Indonesian boat. Jukung Bike has two large poles – like bamboo outriggers – with the bike somewhat suspended between these outriggers like a boat. “It’s a lot more sculptural in that it doesn’t have any real world outcomes – you can’t do anything with it.” Another of the works, Sound System Bike, has what Dodd describes as a definitive performative outcome in public. The bike carries a large sound system, like a party machine, which will further evolve when it’s in the gallery. “In the gallery space it will hopefully make more of a soundscape rather than a straight musical track. It is very much the beginning of some thoughts.” The title Sabotage makes an obvious reference to the lead single from the Beastie Boys 1994 album Ill Communication. “The Beastie Boys were a great band who made great music which was about being a little punk. It was really rebellious. They took the piss a little bit too and I feel that same tone. I don’t need things to be super serious.” James Dodd: Sabotage Contemporary Art Centre of South Australian Continues until Thursday, August 21 james-dodd.com