28 April 2001
A bright sunny day in Baltimore heralded the third annual Kinetic Sculpture Race. It was so warm, in fact, that at least one kinetinaut had to forsake his thick foam costume. The solar energy only added to the fun.
The most prominent
sculpture by far was Fifi, the 13-foot tall pink poodle. Hersh and I followed the race through
the city on the Water Taxi, and each time someone else on the boat would notice Fifi winding her way
through the streets on shore. "What on earth is that pink thing?"
This sculpture was
cleverly disguised as a bush, and rustled considerably in the wind. If you look closely, you
can see the orange safety triangle and one of the the yellow waterwheels. On the water, they drifted
far off course and had to be towed back toward land.
Trash cans are an
interesting floatation device, with cups on the bike spokes for water propulsion.
This island hospital
sculpture included a cheap plastic tiki and medical-costumed characters.
design came from Towson University. It worked acceptably on land and water, but had a
This 3-wheel recumbent
design was extremely efficient on land. The gray bars were entirely decorative, and seemed to
be design fluff until another spectator explained that last year, the same pilot rode the same
sculpture wearing a shark suit. He installed special mud tracks, but when he entered the mud
they immediately seized up. After removing them, he rode through elegantly.
The sand trap posed a
challenge to many sculptures, but not these guys. They built up momentum and churned through.
In contrast, the two
pilots on this sculpture needed pushing and pulling from three pit crew members to get
through the sand.
bypassed the sand altogether. Cheating, yes, but there's no way this low ground-clearance
craft would have made it across.
On the water, Fifi
floated well, and went reasonably quickly in the water when the four pilots worked at it.
Unfortunately, the pilots didn't seem to have any ability to steer, so she drifted so far off the
course she had to be towed back.
These people may look
like they're sinking, but their craft was decidedly seaworthy (although it was probably fortunate
for them that the water racecourse never left the pier).
Rescue" sculpture rounded the dock manageably, festooned with an inflatable woman on the
top. (More inflatable women were to show up later.)
sculpture was a disaster in the water. They had a gray-painted styrofoam pontoon on each side, but
seem to have discovered that provided inadequate flotation. So there were also two
yellow-painted PVC pipes tied with twine to each side. Very loosely tied. As they
rode down the ramp approaching the water, the yellow pipes slid forward several feet. Once in
the water, their center of mass was behind most of their floatation, and their craft immediately
tipped backward. It looked like they hadn't tested the finished sculpture in the water.
Fortunately, capsizing didn't destroy their entry, and they continued the race on land.
The guys who needed so
much help in the sand switched to oars on the water.
In the water, the
shark sculpture was the hands-down winner. When another sculpture went off course and began
drifting in the harbor, the pilot of this craft literally rode circles around it. Meanwhile,
the Coast Guard keeps watch for errant sculptures.
Up on the hill came the
mud race. There was a 40-foot section of mud carefully constructed by race volunteers.
The sculptures went through one by one, and Fifi attracted quite a bit of booing as she rode across
on bubble wrap that kept the mud from her sensitive self.
The mud posed challenges
to other sculptures as well. These twin Elvis impersonators in their tailfin-bedecked
sculpture slogged through the mud only with the help of a tow from several pit crew members.
This guy followed along
with the race, shouting through his construction-cone megaphone and slowed dramatically by the drag
chute consisting of a huge number of inflated grocery bags mounted on a frame.
The racecourse is
patrolled by a large number of volunteers, each equipped with a chicken-on-a-stick. These
sculpture cops demanded bribes from passing sculptures.
You can hear more about what happened at the race from NPR's Weekend All Things Considered (scroll down to "Kinetic Sculpture Race").
|The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is sponsored and run by the American Visionary Art Museum. KineticBaltimore.com is the volunteer work of Tom Jones.
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