Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The pilot ride was our first opportunity to see how the dispenser would work. The plan: the entire unit was attached to the tandem's rear wheel. The wheel's rotation would cause a small 'hammer' to agitate the dispenser. The bottom of the dispenser was fitted with a perferated metal lining. The agitation would force the chalk to fall out onto the rear wheel's tread. As the wheel made contact with the pavement, the chalk would be compressed onto the pavement. The result: an orange line to mark the longitude.
Before taking to the streets, we tested the unit's functionality inside of the storefront. Small poofs of orange dust billowed out from the rear of the bike. The system did not work as well as we had hoped. The chalk hopper box required more agitation than we had originally predicted. Chalk was released, but in random clouds that covered the tandem's rear wheel. (Check out flicker to see the 'orangification' of Mark's legs.)
We headed east towards the Oakland Ferry Terminal at Water Street. We met an interesting fellow rider as we were finishing our stenciling of the site. He admited our bike and told us that Lance Armstrong has covered his bike with symbols to bring him continued health and luck.
After riding parallel to the water's edge, we decided to stencil a longitude mark in front of Jack London's cabin. This sod roofed structure (replica ?) was orginally built in early 20th century in Alaska and relocated to Jack London Square in the 1970s. A short distance from the cabin is Heinhold's First and Last Chance Bar. This historic icon, built from the remnants of an old whaling ship, has been in continuous operation since June 1883. It was one of London's favorite spots.
We stopped at one of the main installation areas for the Bayennale: The event had taken over a Jack London Square parking lot and the Port of Oakland filled the lot with shipping containers. Artists from all over the world, including Oakland, Finland, England, Germany and Australia exhibited a wide range of projects. One group created a massive pinhole camera out of the container, while another had converted the space into an enormous waterbed. The most popular installation was created by the Finns: a propane-heated sauna, complete with a cold dunk in a water-filled oil drum.
On to the Final Site:
Our arrival at the Amtrack platform on tandem bike attracted a lot of attention. There was a small group of kids waiting for the next train. As soon as we took out our stenciling materials and prepared to mark the longitude, every one of those kids clustered around us. Of course they all wanted to know "What are you doing?" Once we explained the purpose of our work, they wanted to know, "But why?" We are sure that this will be a common question as we continue our research. We want to pursue this project because it is easy to operate out of habit and assumptions. We want to give the people who live in Oakland the chance to give their own descriptions of West and East Oakland. And we want to make sure that their voices are heard.
After the kids had boarded the train, an Amtrack employee approached. We were certain that he would reprimand us for defacing private property. Instead, he was curious and interested in our project. And he had a lot of questions about the tandem. The bike is definitely a conversation starter and an excellent metaphor for our work: steady collaboration.