in Frieze | 06 SEP 94
Featured in
Issue 18

Fired Up

Part B

in Frieze | 06 SEP 94

As the title of Part B's audio-visual artwork is projected onto the wall, the lecture hall PA system hisses with ominous volume. Fired Up opens with a motorcyclist's boot hammering the kickstart of a 1964 Triumph Bonneville. The roar of the engine fills the room, followed by the thump-thump-thump of techno music. Images of speeding motorcycles bombard the screen: Ducati, BMW, Norton, BSA, Moto Guzzi and Laverda. Leather-clad rockers straddle old European bikes and race through the city to the open road.

Nine carousel projectors are triggered by computer to show 300 slides in 180 seconds. The overall effect is cinematic. Sequential slides animate to form dislocated narratives while individual images appear instantaneously or burn in with a measured fade. Like a pop video or a frenetic nightclub backdrop designed to incite hysteria, Fired Up loses the viewer in a seductive world of sound and vision. Certain images are temporarily suspended: a group of bikers as they head down a country road, bikes in close-up and the back of a studded jacket. In one instance, the projector strobes to the pulse of the music and a photograph of a street is seen to judder, recreating the adrenaline rush of a ride.

As the music accelerates, the black and white imagery of chrome and steel gives way to a psychedelic trace of coloured neon lights. At this point, images of picturesque postcards appear - many from the studio of John Hinde, noted for his surreal use of early colour photography. But their vivid blue skies and lush green pastures are secondary to the twists and turns of the roads, selected for their 'corner content'. The spectator is invited to assume a biker's-eye view of what it would be like to navigate the Scottish highlands or to lean into a bend in the south of France.

The postcards should look at odds with the brute force of the biker imagery and the hedonism of techno music, but juxtaposed, each element cancels out the other's cultural baggage: the techno music dispossesses the bikes of nostalgia, the bikes override the sentimentality of the postcards, the postcards tarnish the industrial sound of the techno music, and so on. This internal friction locates Fired Up in an unspecified historical context where the distance of time is compressed into the year dot.

After three minutes of sensory exhilaration, Fired Up closes with an illustration of a fallen victim from a 60s advertisement for Cromwell crash helmets. The music ends and after a prolonged blackout the sound of motorbikes returns, only this time they screech to a halt, park up and turn off their engines.

Part B (a.k.a. Ben Part) rides a French registered Italian Moto Guzzi which took four years to build and comprises Laverda, BMW and Triumph features. It is best described as a '70s Euro Caff Racer', implying rides from café to café, or a 'Federal European bike'.