Pedal-powered Prose

Without fail, I experience the thrill of inspiration while pedaling around Wellington’s bays. Unfortunately, my recollection of said inspiration can’t boast the same success record. Just yesterday, I watched the windswept peaks of high tide tickle the bellies of Evan’s Bay boathouses and I thought… yeah. Something really amazing. I don’t remember now. See?

The artists at work.

So, imagine my delight when Cool Breeze and I rounded Te Papa and ran smack into a shipping container hosting two cycling artists, one of whom was busy busy busy typing away on a small laptop while a plethora of cycle-powered electronics whirred and performed their electronic purpose around him. Did I mention the guy with the laptop was pedaling while composing some sort of literary masterpiece? Here was half an answer to all my problems.

Entitled Nag, the living diorama, conceived by lighting designer, former bike mechanic, and writer-on-the-bike, Marcus McShane, is an artist studio that generates art, and all the necessary tools and ambience for the art itself.  Two bicycles on stands turn two modified Fisher & Paykel washing machine motors to generate enough energy for a laptop, a record player, an ipod, an ancient avometer, a couple of LED lights, a chandelier, and a printer. If the legs are going strong, there’s enough power to spare for the charging of random camera batteries and cell phones when necessary.

McShane came up with the idea for Nag last year to remedy his regret for the number of good thoughts he’d lost while pedaling. He outfit his container with all secondhand bits, including reclaimed wood from Seacliff Mental Hospital (aka Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, host to Janet Frame for many years) and a glimmering chandelier that requires 160 watts, or a sprinter’s pace, to power. Recognizing that a writer’s performance is not nearly so interesting to anyone except the writer himself, he requested the company of good friend and illustrator, jpoch nee Jenna, to help with the visuals and the creation of visuals in his studio.  Together, in matching uniforms no less, the two pedal for their art – up to 13 hours a day between them – while answering questions, admiring passing bikes and listening for the voltage deficiency alarm.

The artists' studio.

Nag is part of the Performance Arcade 2011, a three-day event featuring installations and performance art in eight shipping containers lining Wellington’s waterfront.  All the containers are worth a gander and the whole thing is absolutely free (a koha is always nice).  You can check it all out through Sunday evening.  Check out the schedule of interactive performances surrounding the containers all weekend and ride down to the waterfront to be a part of the art.

Maybe you’ll figure out a way to power a laptop I can use while actually riding around the bays. On second thought, that might be too much of a good thing.

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