Artist in residence at Wolverhampton School of Art – beginnings

I’m one of several artists in residence based at Wolverhampton School of Art this academic year.

My proposal was based around improving the sculptural and theoretical elements of the Ride (Birmingham – York) project I did in response to a commission from VINYL in 2013.

A few years ago I conducted a successful proof-of-concept for a project called Ride. I cycled 240 miles between Birmingham and York whilst a mechanical cabinet back in Birmingham glowed, spun, levered and whirred in response to how much effort I was having to put in on the other end.

I have a basic functioning prototype of the technology that broadcasts data from a phone (with me on the bike) back to the cabinet in near-real time, however the cabinet I used with it had workings made from foamboard and other materials that I could easily build with in my flat. Not great, sculpturally. I would like to use the residency with Wolverhampton School of Art to develop the form of the mechanical cabinet and also to refine the way in which I present and frame the project.

So, post MA and time spent thinking about sense-scapes and embodied experiences, I’m using the residency to start again from the beginning and really examine how a responsive cabinet such as this might be an interesting object/system for prompting conversations about connection, distance and effort.

Remotely watching someone travelling by bicycle often boils down to looking at a marker on an online map. Here’s the marker and map I’ve been watching in 2015: Steven Abraham’s attempt to beat the One Year Time Trail record:

Most (but not all!) of Steve's tracks Jan-Dec 2015.

Most (but not all!) of Steve’s tracks Jan-Dec 2015.

This is an extreme case: at the time of writing, Steve has cycled 60,004 miles since January the 1st, 2015. (He’s aiming for more than 71,039 miles.) Whilst the map and the orange track lines help to give a sense of the accumulated achievement, they don’t very well communicate the blood, sweat and tears experience of cycling about 200 miles a day every day for a year. The forum threads I’ve seen seem to be characterised by speculation about routes, plans, diets etc, but when someone reports having seen Steve out on the road, the questions suddenly shift to asking about how he seems to be getting on and whether spirits are high or not.

So my starting questions include: what is lost through using the marker-on-a-map approach, and what are the affordances of a more embodied approach focusing on physical manifestations of the exertions of a rider?


I’ve been installed up in one of the studios with a table and a bit of wall space which I’m currently using to get some words down and try and get at what the key starting questions might be and what it is I actually want to make and do in order to activate these.

Here are two bits of insight that have come out of the brainstorming so far:


mini brief

That second one is a mini brief that’s emerged for the cabinet. I don’t want to make literal illustrations of heartbeat, pedalling or headwinds, but instead create a complementary sensory experience for the watcher. (I’m going to have to find new names for the different roles, too – “watcher” sounds a bit too creepy!)

Also on the to-do list is to experiment with different mechanisms I could use to make things happen in the cabinet.

I used my first day to suss out the laser cutter and made this:



It’s perilously close to being illustrative, but there may be a supporting role for a chain and sprockets somewhere!