Re: [-empyre-] PED

It interesting that the works themselves reveal hidden histories or hidden narratives - the paved wetlands, daily activities behind the marketing campaign. What type of research do you conduct in determining the routes? It seems it would be a great archaeological, sociological/oral history, cartographic investigation.

It's ironic that the two 'censored' PEDs were done so for primarily visual reasons rather than of content. In China because the event fell coincidentally close to the Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary, visual and aural associations with a demonstration. But it's somewhat more disconcerting that in Rio the security concerns came because of the bikes not the participants or the broadcast. Did the presence of a security guard heighten the feeling of insecurity? Would less spiffy bikes have been less of a security concern? Did the U.S. participants notice any of the broadcast as transgressive or critical or was it interpreted more as historical narrative? Did any of the participants think/feel that they were entering unchartered territory? Did any of the participant/performers get upset about their broadcasts?

It's great that the programs are broadcast. There is a similar concept at work in Soundwalk, a New York-based pre-recorded audio-guided walking tour company: a local resident narrates a walking tour of their neighborhood allowing the tourist a 'privileged' view. However it is always shown/promoted as a solitary experience best experienced through headphones. It seems contradictory that the 'being in the place' is mitigated by the veil of the prerecorded, filtering the experience of actually 'being there'.

It seems that the PED mechanism could be quickly adapted to or adopted/co-opted by city agencies who have been courting the free bike programs - make the bikes broadcasting machines for public awareness, propaganda, or advertising as a way of offsetting costs for equipment and maintenance. Has there been any interest to adopt the PED as an city/municipally endorsed program? or to combat an 'inconvenient truth'?

Conversely parasite, rather than broadcasting, brought sounds that we recorded in the field into the installations to heighten viewers awareness of the extended space. Specifically, in "trans-border: primitive man @edge of virtual forest / hyaku-take" we recorded the sound of a babbling brook and the sound of 18-wheel semi-trucks going over a highway overpass as they left the Laredo, TX border crossing station and brought them into the gallery space on motion sensor triggers. One to make reference of the types of border crossings, and two to complement the types of movement we had in the space: the video projections, the gridded space, and the performance.


Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <>
To: soft_skinned_space <>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] PED
Date: Mon, 03 Sep 2007 14:15:05 -0400

Hi Tim. I'll give some background on PED:

The PED collective (Paul Vanouse, Andrew Johnson, myself, and since 2006, Warren Quigley, Joan Linder) has been operating since 2001 as a pseudo service bureau and info/excer-tainment outlet from which viewer/participants may embark on free, talking-bicycle lecture tours. Each site-specific instance of PED provides a different menu of thematic tours, each with a tailored audio broadcast system and particular routes to follow. The bicycles are outfitted with an interactive audio system, either pedal-activated (i.e. as the participants pedal they hear the pre-recorded lecture, and when they stop the lecture ceases) or as live broadcast (utilizing strap-on walkie-talkies with one-way transmission from the PED service bureau), depending on what the specific situation calls for. The mandate of PED is to expand the parameters of performance by both invisibly performing a service bureau and orchestrating participants to unwittingly perform as they conspicuously ride through the city on the talking-bicycles, disseminating information by broadcasting the lectures. We propose that PED bicycles occupy utopian territory as a viable form of public communication and democratic address.

We've predominantly used the pedal-activated technique, albeit altered greatly from site to site. In the first PEDs in Buffalo, in Belfast, Hamilton, etc., we stayed with the individually-equipped bikes where participants would be riding out into the city as individuals. In Chongqing, China, we adapted this system to incorporate multiple riders, all pedaling (2 to move the unit, 1 to activate the audio and steer); we built a series of 3-bike machines, welded together to operate in unison and each machine pulling a thematically-designed float (this served as reference to the hand-pulled carts that are still highly visible and to the incredible collision of ancient and new technologies that co-exist, uneasily, on the streets of cities in China).

Recently, this past winter in Rio de Janeiro, we responded to the use of walkie-talkies as a form of security and crowd control and took advantage of its use to mix live broadcast (from the hidden surveillance/broadcast post, the PED broadcaster had visual access to riders for a portion of the route) with pre-recorded.

The Chongqing and Rio situations were challenging for PED - 'security' issues, defined very differently in each place, threw up some interesting, and at times very frustrating, blocks.

In Rio, it was strongly impressed on us that we should worry about the security of our persons, as privileged riders (the borrowed bikes were spiffy) and as potential security reps (we were told we might be mistaken for police because of the harness outfits that our riders wore). The rides were therefore automatically a collective experience as no one was allowed to ride off on their own. We always had at least one other rider with us, a security officer hired by the organization, even when just testing the routes prior to running the tours.

In Chongqing, the 'security' came in the form of an 11th hour censoring. The date of the performance event, a proposed parade of the bike-cart machines through the streets of Chongqing, coincidentally fell close to the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. We were working with 38 art school students, riding bicycles, broadcasting public address - you can do the math. Although we were hyper aware from the beginning about avoiding direct engagement of controversial / sensitive topics, the content of our broadcasts became moot as the visual representation we became was too loud for comfort.


Quoting timothy murray <>:

Thanks so much, Millie, for this fascinating overview of your work. I'm particularly interested to hear more about the relationship of cultural transgression and your public collaborative projects. Would you be willing to elaborate on this in relation, for instance, to a description of your PED and how its practice of "transgression" varied from place to place, US to China?



Timothy Murray
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
285 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York  14853

office: 607-255-4086

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