Kurt Wold

DADA Rode a Bicycle / MOMA was a Peddler
October 22 - November 27, 1997

Interview between Kurt Wold and DAC Gallery Director Stuart Allen
Originally printed in the Davis Enterprise, September 24, 1997.


Stuart Allen: What led you to the bicycle form?

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Kurt Wold: I have been involved with bicycles and cycling since the early 70's. In the mid-80's, I built a tandem bike in my living room with the intention of traveling with it in Europe. The trip never materialized, but the bicycle attracted a great deal of attention while I was working on my M.F.A. in Madison (at the University of Wisconsin.) I never felt there was enough intermingling between departments as it was such a large school, yet this bicycle was intriguing to engineering students, art students and anyone else who had an interest in bicycles. My "real" artwork at the time was consistently deemed "cryptic" and I wasn't convinced that this was such a good thing. So I built another bicycle, this time with the intention of breaking the land speed record (for a human powered machine.) We took the bike to Vancouver, B.C. to break the record, which we didn't, and the discussions all turned to engineering - just engineering. This was not a real cross-over, I had just changed camps. So when I returned to the studio I turned again to aesthetic concerns and eventually this bike became Machine #1 in the exhibit.

SA: Your work is appealing to viewers beyond the traditional art audience yet you maintain a level of art world reference as well. Is this balance difficult to achieve?

KW: I guess I've always wanted both. I want to include enough footholds that viewers will feel they can approach the work, but that's only the beginning. I would hope that the experience will extend beyond the initial attraction - it could open up into art history, into pure mechanics, whatever. I'm not saying specifically which relationships I want to encourage. This is one of my problems with really heavy postmodern work where the viewer is basically getting a lecture on how to interact with the work. There can be a lot of information, but it needs to be open. It's like a walk in the woods where things aren't labeled, but there's plenty to deal with.

SA: In terms of the art making process, initial concept through design and finally production, your work seems to weigh heavily on production time. Is this problematic or do you thrive on the production phase?

KW: Generally these things take about a year to produce. The idea has to be extremely exciting to carry me through this long process. I don't design them tight, in fact, I didn't even draw the last one at all. This allows for a more intuitive and interesting production. Nevertheless, about four months into it I usually grow to hate the piece and this is when the real work begins. After Machine #2 I felt I was finished with the project - yet I built eight more.

SA: Is this project finished?

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KW: Yes it truly is.

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SA: These are all functional machines to a degree. How important is this?

KW: I think it is very important that they be built with the idea that they work. I want to expand the definition of what a contemplative object is. Can things be contemplative and functional at the same time? We see a precedent for this in custom car shows. These vehicles are essentially contemplative objects, I mean nobody is going to fire-up one of those highly polished engines. Yet they are intriguing because of their underlying functionality. On several occasions I have been asked to include (in an exhibit) a video demonstrating the machines but I feel this would alter the viewing experience too much. It would be reduced to, "this is the object, this is what it does" and exclude all other interpretations, personal associations, etc...

SA: Do you have any "art heroes"?

KW: No I really don't. Leonardo DaVinci maybe.