On bikes, art… and theoretical physics

A CERN antimatter researcher weighs in on the use of bikes in a new art installation.




Most of us at Bike New York are obviously suckers for anything that can combine art with bikes, so I jumped at the invitation to attend the opening for Brazilian architect-turned-artist Anna Paola Protasio’s installation The Fractured Instant, which goes one step further by throwing theoretical physics into the mix. The installation, on view at Nohra Haime Gallery through February 7, utilizes bikes to explore “the relationship between time and space, and the possibilities of its disruption.” Footage of red-cloaked cyclists pedaling through what looks like a park and then disappearing into an unknown dimension is projected on opposite walls while the bikes themselves—one of which seems to disappear into and reemerge from a long black wall—occupy the main space.




Cláudio Lenz Cesar, a physicist who researches antimatter at CERN, wrote the following about the installation. Make of it what you will:


“Perhaps the genius of Albert Einstein was the one that spent most dedication to the understanding of the relation between space and time in nature, incorporating the four-dimensional space in our language and culture. His theories, special and general relativity, changed the concepts of absolute time and space. These concepts do seem strange to us, since they are evident only in a scale away from our daily life and require sophisticated analytical and mathematical tools for comprehension. Many books have been written to illustrate these ideas to the general public. In the almost poetic fiction “Einstein’s Dreams”, Alan Lightman takes us through dreams that young Einstein might have had in the months prior to his discovery of Relativity, imagining different ways by which time could pass in different universes. Together with Relativity, Quantum Mechanics brought us even more difficult and phantasmagoric concepts, such as non-locality, tunneling, and teleportation. These are very successful theories – against experimental tests – and which allow us a great variety of practical applications: from the transistor – and thus all the electronics and computers – to the laser, nuclear magnetic resonance and the GPS.

The exhibition “The Fractured Instant” of Anna Paola Protasio immediately speaks to our felling about time – the before, now, and after – mixed in the same and other spaces. It stirs our minds with the notions of causality, of the arrow of time and the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and refers to tunneling! It instigates and at the same time brings some comfort, in a tacit recognition of these concepts. Nothing better than a bicycle to represent “tacit” knowledge: one simply learns to ride a bicycle while incapable of describing in words this knowledge. “The Fractured Instant” first makes you head swirl and then gives the sensation of “eureka!”, a tip of the tacit comprehension and questioning of the concepts of causality, tunneling, teleportation, and the intricate relation of space and time. Today, we speculate about mirror-universe, multiverses and even another universe all made of antimatter far away from us. Is that so? The arts and fiction have always been great allies to science in this pursuit of keeping alive the flame of the “different” and in the communication of these ideas, something very alive in the art of Anna Paola.”




Know of any good art projects that feature bikes? We’d love to know about ’em! Please tell us in the comments below.