On Bike Revolutions.

“Provo realises that it will lose in the end, but it cannot pass up the chance to make at least one more heartfelt attempt to provoke society.”

–from the Provo Manifesto

Free bike programs are notorious. Both practical transportation ideas and naive grabs for anticapitalistic utopia, they have roamed the streets of Portland, OR, Madison, WI, Copenhagen, and La Rochelle, France.

The latest act of karmic cyclery is part of the Glasgow International Art Festival. But these festival bikes are no ordinary bikes– they are white bikes. They are tribute bikes. Tributes, that is, to the original 50 bikes released onto the streets of Amsterdam by the Dutch Provo movement in 1966.

One of a series of “White Plans,” (including white housing, white kids, white wives/contraception and white chimneys), the White Bikes program sought to alleviate transportation issues in Amsterdam by flooding the streets with free public bikes. Basically, it was the grandaddy of all free bike programs. It was the idea of a gentleman named Luud Schimmelpennink, but enacted by gangs of “Provos.”

Provos left the original 50 white bikes unlocked on the streets of Amsterdam. After they were impounded for lack of lockage, the activists outfitted the bikes with combination locks. Each bike wore its combination like a tattoo.

The Glasgow white bikes are similarly outfitted with locks, but their combination, 2010, is publicly known. The locks are just to deter lazy bike-stealing jackasses. Everyone else can ride and share, high off of 1966 revolutionary utopian sustainability glory. A similar, city-wide bike program exists in Portland, ME.

The original Amsterdam White Bike program may not have lasted, but Provo actions and tensions between protestors and police did eventually force the mayor and police cheif to resign. Schimmelpennink was later elected to Amsterdam city council multiple times and now works as an industrial designer. His projects include modern bike and car-sharing programs. In the works: a free bike program in Amsterdam regulated by computers. Maybe the revolution has just been waiting to get digitized.

Go to the Green Museum

Trigger Point Theory as Aesthetic Activism

Trigger Point Theory as Aesthetic Activism was a three day workshop, culminating yesterday, led by Aviva Rahmini. I’m trying to meet-up with Aviva later today, but in the mean time, please check out the last three daily recaps from her workshop:

Day 1

Just spoke with someone from Shell: formerly working for their sustainability program, quit so they can look at themselves in the mirror (minimal progress, 30-33 people killed annually, stupid, selfish choices re: developing countries.) Asked not to be identified

Day 2

Fabian, one of the Climate Pirates who brought 5 ships to Copenhagen, saw his colleagues surrounded by the melee of violent police on the way to the World Culture Center where we are working. He perceives that the police are deliberately sustaining the high tension of the situation by making arrests and quick releases.

Day 3

I like an orderly society as much as anyone but not at the cost I’m experiencing here. I spoke to eyewitnesses (people known to me), who watched Danish plain clothesmen infiltrate the protestors and become provocative until the police charged, at which time the police encircled the phony agitators to bring them back into the folds of their own, while going on to beat up the rest of the crowd.

SOS Gulf to Gulf is a virtual model for the role of art in creating resilience

For Immediate Release: December 16, 2009

Contact: Aviva Rahmani 646 403 7130

Asger Jorn Room, Bella Center, Copenhagen

Art can help build the capacity and facilitate adaptation needed at COP15;

SOS Gulf to Gulf is a virtual model for the role of art in creating resilience

Protestors world wide see COP15 as a conflict between money and legalisms. This press conference asserts that is why art needs to be at the table, “ [supporting] [assisting] [enabling] all developing country Parties, particularly the most vulnerable, in undertaking adaptation measures.” Art is how people express their experiences. Millions of artists have another approach to environmental issues.

Artists can help COP15 communicate between parties

  • The media can convey how art can enable adaptation and implement climate justice
  • Contemporary and indigenous art practices provide relatively low-cost, uncontentious models for adaptation and mitigation that can contribute to long term cooperation and capacity building. Art is a vehicle to express what words and numbers can’t.
  • When we take “aspirational goals” seriously for the Least Developed Countries (LDC), we see that the arts in each culture and between cultures are a means to express aspiration, sustain it’s people, bridge communication gaps and be a container for important historical information, including indigenous environmental knowledge. Art is the glue holding societies and cultures together, under stress, means to intimately connect people.
  • In the 21rst century, art can create ways for technology transfer and development to translate and protect bodies of cultural knowledge, because artists are innovative.
  • Ecological art is a recognized practice that embraces an ecological ethic in both its content and form/materials, embracing collaborative opportunities.

SOS Gulf to Gulf is an example of how an ecological art practice can help

  • SOS Gulf to Gulf developed in virtual collaboration to reduce carbon emissions
  • Artist Aviva Rahmani and scientist Dr. Jim White, director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), University of Colorado at Boulder, initiated a cross-disciplinary virtual collaboration, addressing the international global warming crisis in gulf regions.
  • The story reveals parallels between Bangladesh, the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of Maine, the Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf connecting water, war, pirates, fisheries, education and migrations.
  • SOS Gulf to Gulf was inspired by the Trigger Point Theory of environmental restoration developed by Rahmani
  • Presentation Credits: dialog is between artists Aviva Rahmani and Peter Buotte, curator Tricia Watts, Ecoartspace, Marda Kirn, director EcoArts Connection, Dr. Jim White, INSTAAR, Dr. Ed Maibach, George Mason University, Dr. Eugene Turner, Louisiana State University, Dr. Michele Dionne, director of Research at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Wells Maine and Tuku Ahmed, a New York City taxi cab driver and immigrant from Bangladesh.

If COP15 and the UNFCCC desire just allocation of resources to deal with climate change. Why then, has art, which has so much to contribute to that goal, been absent from all discussions of adaptability?


Report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention on its seventh session, held in Bangkok from 28 September to 9 October 2009, and Barcelona from 2 to 6 November 2009; chosen because it bears equally on human needs for ethics and culture.

  • Key words and phrases:

build capacity and facilitate adaptation, Ecological art, adaptation and mitigation, aspirational goals, technology transfer and development, Resilience, Vulnerability, “[the level of adaptation][adaptation needs]”, “[framework] [programme]”

  • Key document text that illlustrates why art can become a partner:
  • pg 54: “Adaptation is a challenge shared by all countries; …. in order to reduce vulnerability, minimize loss and damage and build the resilience of ecological and social systems and economic sectors to present and future adverse effects of climate change [and the impact of the implementation of response measures]. (reference content of non-paper no.41 (5 November 2009)”
  • pp 61: “identifying sources of adaptation;

(b) Strengthening, consolidating and enhancing the sharing of information, knowledge, experience and good practices, at local, national, regional and international levels, consistent with relevant international agreements, through creating forums where different public and private stakeholders can discuss concrete challenges;”

  • Additional considerations
  1. Gender issues relate to questions of art and culture. Disproportionately, artisans in indigenous cultures are often women. Their practices often preserve the, “[land use, land-use change and forestry sector]”; (and represent how to) p. 92 “respect the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples[, including their free, prior and informed consent,]  Deforestation is often a consequence of the cultural disruption that displaces gender roles.
  2. Art and humanities foster creativity through out all sectors of society. In transition periods, creative problem-solving is as essential to survival as financial or regulatory support.
  3. The costs of sustaining cultural communities in relation to other ecological costs is not only minimal but has historically transferred wealth, in a variety of forms back into an economy. This will help cultures in transition maintain identity and independence, a response to the need to, “develop low-emission [high growth sustainable] development strategies.”

Films by Aviva Rahmani with discussion afterwards will be viewed at 5: PM December 16: Farumgade 4-6, 2200 Kbh N (Nørrebro) (via shareaholic)

Technology, culture, Rodney King, Ian Tomlinson and Damien McBride

Two very modern stories, and one slightly older one:

1) Attempting to grasp the new digital culture, the UK’s Labour party falls foul of it instead when Gordon Brown’s protege Damien McBride is caught plotting to feed bloggers malevolent disinformation.

2) Protestors, long warning of the evils of surveillance culture, suddenly find that surveillance has its uses when horrendous footage of the beating of Ian Tomlinson emerges, to be followed yesterday by more amateur phone video of another police assault on a G20 protestor.

The socio-technological earthquake continues to alter the way our culture unfolds in surprising ways. The omnipresence of continually updated digital representations of our world is altering our relationship to it in ways that are both dangerous and liberating.

Blogger Tomorrow Museum suggested something like this recently, kicking off with Momus’s idea of the 1:1 ratio of experience to writing. For the slightly Eeyore-ish artist/musician Momus, the suggestion that we now turn every act into content – a blog, a Tweet- is something of a worry. For Tomorrow Museum, though, this world in which everyone becomes a witness is a safer place. He cites the filmed beating of Rodney King – the assault that started the LA Riots – as a starting point of this info earthquake.

The paradox is that while Damien McBride’s actions are now witnessed and scrutinised, we’ve also lived through a decade in which around seven million have been killed or died in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia with barely any witness at all.

And having met Rodney King a couple of times while I was working in South Central Los Angeles, I wouldn’t envy anyone who becomes part of the info-maelstrom. The film of Rodney King’s beating became a focal point for civil rights activism, but King himself was not a man who ever asked for the attention, who felt tragically responsible for the deaths that happened in the ensuing riots, and who appeared to be just as much a victim of the all attention he had as of that original police assault.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology