Author Topic: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling  (Read 1325 times)

Cudzoziemiec

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Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« on: January 24, 2019, 04:44:10 pm »
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Object Lesson: Grayson Perry on his Vogue Elite bicycle
The Turner Prize-winning artist talks about why he loves his ladies’ bike, and discusses his adventures riding around London ‘like a kind of two-wheeled flâneur’
‘This is the bike I ride about town. I like it very much. It is a ladies’ bike, so I can wear a dress on it. I have a yellow plastic milk crate on the front, which is where I put my shoes and handbag. I really enjoy passing men on racing bikes, particularly when I am wearing a skirt.

‘I chose the pea-green model because I am a colour campaigner and wanted a bike that was bright. I never buy black — “cowards’ black”, I call it. Black clothes on men are an abstention from the conversation.

‘I bought the bicycle online from Holland. It’s classic Dutch style: tall and upright, and old-school with its industrial welded tubes. The handlebars are close to the saddle, meaning that you are not bent over as you ride. It weighs about 40lb and is geared for Holland — one gear for the flat, two for when you have the wind at your back — so it’s hard work on hills.

‘One of my favourite things is to pedal it about London very slowly on a beautiful balmy summer’s evening, like a kind of two-wheeled flâneur. Sometimes I might stop for a pint or two on the way round, just on my own, so I can hear and smell and watch the world go by. I love doing that.

‘I find that men are very confused about the role of function, which they often think is a way of displaying status’ — Grayson Perry

‘I have done a lot of work around masculinity, and I find that men are very confused about the role of function, which they often think is a way of displaying status. So they get a £2,000 bike that weighs five kilograms and would be useful if you were on the Tour de France — but it’s completely impractical for riding to work.

‘A town bike that you leave on a rack needs to be cheap: that’s one of its functions. This bike has a squishy saddle and is very comfortable — but comfort is another function that gets ignored in the man world, because no status is attached to it.
https://www.christies.com/features/Grayson-Perry-on-his-Vogue-Elite-bicycle-9660-1.aspx?sc_lang=en
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2019, 04:53:15 pm »
Have you read it? Then we'll begin.

I think he's right in saying a lot of supposed function is really about displaying status, but in saying that he's also taking a narrow view of function. In the specific case of the mamil commuters, the use we see – commuting – might not be the only or even primary function of that particular bike. It might be mainly for racing/touring/cyclocross/audax/etc but put into use as a commuter because that's what there is to fill that role. More generally and more obviously, isn't display of status also a function (of many objects)?

But I don't think he's against display of status in itself, indeed he seems to be quite in favour of things have as their essence to be beautiful. What he seems to be against is the justification or disguising of beauty as the result of some other function. That seems like a plea for honesty – "I don't drive a Rolls-Royce because it's good for my voice, I drive it because it impresses people" – but also seems to demand too sharp a distinction between "function" and "beauty" IMO.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2019, 05:48:46 pm »
He's channeling Drew Buck and Sophie Matter at the same time.

Do we know if Grayson is being paid by Vogue as an influencer? The market for Dutch bikes among cross-dressing potters must be immense.


Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2019, 06:08:16 pm »
I can't find much to disagree with in his writing.

I have a sturdy bike to ride about town. It has a basket in the front, solid tubes, one gear. It can withstand being bashed by other bikes when parked up.

<i>Marmite slave</i>

Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2019, 07:03:23 pm »
Cycle commuters aren't restricted to black-clad blokes on expensive race bikes. A couple of hours before them the roads are occupied by hi-vis clad workers on utility bikes headed for utility jobs.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2019, 07:07:24 pm »
Yeah, I'd have a similar bike if I could justify another one. But I'd have gears, cos we have hills here. Ambivalent about baskets, it's something to try at least.

But I didn't read this as a being about what sort of bike is suitable for commuting. If you did, that's good, cos that's what I'm wondering about: what other people see in this.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2019, 07:12:50 pm »
I see high-end attention-seeking, which has clearly worked. Although it's mild by Grayson's standards.


Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2019, 09:32:54 pm »
Cycle commuters aren't restricted to black-clad blokes on expensive race bikes. A couple of hours before them the roads are occupied by hi-vis clad workers on utility bikes headed for utility jobs.

Round these parts the 'utility bike' is generally an MTB-shaped object. I didn't read the original comment as saying all commuters are on silly soot superbikes, but certainly in that London they're a recognisable tribe. Still, I'd rather they were on their expensive bikes on the way into work than in their expensive Audis or whatever.

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2019, 09:57:17 am »
I was interested by what he says about black: ‘I chose the pea-green model because I am a colour campaigner and wanted a bike that was bright. I never buy black — “cowards’ black”, I call it. Black clothes on men are an abstention from the conversation.'

In simple aesthetic terms I agree, I like colours. I do have a black bike but I bought it for other qualities (function?) rather than its colour. I don't have many black clothes (I probably ought to buy some – for funerals  :() but that's just my likes and dislikes. Is black "an abstention from the conversation"? It seems to me black is currently a trendy colour for mamil-wear, so black lycra is actually saying something – which brings us back to status (=mamil) and function (easy to claim black as a functional clothing colour). I suppose to an extent we have Team Sky to blame or thank for the trendiness of black, maybe it will change as they go. But black is always the fashionistas' colour of choice, isn't it?
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2019, 11:20:49 am »
I like Grayson Perry's work but I tend to find his view of masculinity somewhat reductive and over simplistic.

Of course he's absolutely right about the practicalities of urban cycling and the unsuitability of a lightweight racing bike for commuting.

Is black "an abstention from the conversation"? It seems to me black is currently a trendy colour for mamil-wear, so black lycra is actually saying something

What exactly is it saying then? "I have no original ideas of my own" or "I don't really care about aesthetics" perhaps?

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2019, 11:35:19 am »
It's saying the same on a roadie as on a fashion designer: "I'm a member of this group (or I want you to think I am)." Though on the designer it's also saying "I'm so innately stylish I'm beyond fashion."  This might include "I have no original ideas of my own" and "I don't really care about aesthetics"
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2019, 11:35:28 am »
If you recall various NSFW pictures of men wearing non-black shorts, that should be enough to convince that coloured lycra is inadvisable. :demon:

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2019, 11:36:38 am »
If you recall various NSFW pictures of men wearing non-black shorts, that should be enough to convince that coloured lycra is inadvisable. :demon:
That too! Though it only applies to shorts/tights.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2019, 11:56:43 am »
It's saying the same on a roadie as on a fashion designer

I simply don't agree with this.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2019, 11:57:49 am »
It's saying the same on a roadie as on a fashion designer

I simply don't agree with this.
Tell me more!
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2019, 11:59:15 am »
It's saying the same on a roadie as on a fashion designer

I simply don't agree with this.
Tell me more!

Well, to oversimplify the reasons and reduce them to an aphorism, fashion designers wear black as a conscious decision, cyclists wear black as an unconscious decision.

Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2019, 12:21:33 pm »
When I lived in the Netherlands I had a sit up and beg bike like that. A Gazelle. Adn yes tiw was what is called a 'woman's bike'.
I thought it marvellous. Those things are built like tanks and do not flex - so why do you need a top tube to prove your manfulness?
The other thing, which everyone knows on here, is that the Dutch wear their normal clothes when cycling to work, the shops etc.

One one snowy evening I was behind an elderly gentleman cycling along in his overcoat. A lady of similar age emerged from a sidestreet and they greeted each other and started cyclign along together. Obviously old friends. It lifted my heart. Where woudl you ever see that in the UK?

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2019, 12:21:52 pm »
I think in both cases it has a large element of following the consensus as a group marker.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
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Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2019, 01:09:50 pm »
...
One one snowy evening I was behind an elderly gentleman cycling along in his overcoat. A lady of similar age emerged from a sidestreet and they greeted each other and started cyclign along together. Obviously old friends. It lifted my heart. Where woudl you ever see that in the UK?

They snarl at each other and race whether they wanted to all not, trying to block each other at every traffic light? Plus the woman would be a man.
!nataS pihsroW

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2019, 05:01:47 pm »
Grayson says black clothes are "an abstention from the conversation," which I presume means they don't contribute anything either aesthetically or in terms of expressing anything about the wearer. I'd say what they express is a group identity, at least on cyclists of the rapha-wearing sort (other manufacturers are available and applicable). Away from cycling they can express other things, as when worn by "skinny paranoid chain-smoking New Yorkers,"* Johnny Cash, priests or anarchists. (I don't smoke, have never been to New York, can't sing, am not a priest and am not comfortable with anarchism, so I only have black socks.)

I note he specifies this only applies to black clothes on men but I don't know if that's just because he's writing about men or black clothes on women do take part in the conversation.

*Quote from someone but I can't remember who.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #20 on: January 25, 2019, 05:06:40 pm »
I'd say what they express is a group identity

Which is pretty much his point...

"We're all individuals!"

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2019, 05:08:59 pm »
Yes, but it's an identity not everyone on a bike feels or chooses to express, and some cyclists sneer at ("Rapha wankers!"). And how does it not apply to fashion designers (or for that matter anarchists)?
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2019, 08:29:38 am »
Probably not on topic but I see a female Japanese rider often between Lewisham and the middle of town on a bright pink Dutch style cruiser.   The panniers are decorated with flowers and she’s always dressed immaculately.  I think she’s also got a fully pink Brompton as well.

Anyone using a bike to get around is great.   I hate being described as a MAMIL even though the description is technically accurate.

Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2019, 03:34:14 pm »
I'd say that one of the key words in the article is 'flâneur.

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Baudelaire identified the flâneur in his essay The Painter of Modern Life (1863) as the dilettante observer. The flâneur carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street. Such a figure can be seen featured in many impressionist paintings.

The flâneur has become an important figure for scholars, artists and writers and was taken up in the twentieth century by the Situationists.

As the article is in a Christies blog, I'd tend to be looking at it as view of cycling from an SW1 perspective. Wealth can be taken for granted, so an expensive bike is no signifier.

There's no need for speed, as we're not suburban commuters. Work is nearby, and is a sort of hobby really, the arts perhaps.

There are other associations which spring to mind, but they're based on cliches and generalisations, but that's how marketing works. I'm never going to get that sort of article thrown up by cookies. What I do get a lot is a film advertising a Ribble gravel bike that features the route I would take into Preston from Leyland,  which shows that the cookies sometimes do work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcKIgApSNjU

Re: Grayson Perry on function and status in cycling
« Reply #24 on: January 26, 2019, 06:58:43 pm »
Regarding apparel, I wear a fair amount of black as a way of minimising the thought and choices that I have to make daily about what to wear.  If GP views this is as "an abstention from the conversation" all I can say is it's a conversation I'm more than happy not to participate in.

I think ESL has it right
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I see high-end attention-seeking, which has clearly worked.