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It is Motorcycling but is it Art?

November 22, 2010


Arbroath, Scotland – Artist Grayson Perry’s recent eccentric tour of Germany on a psychedelic motorcycle accompanied by Alan his teddy bear, riding shrine, seems to have ruffled a few feathers.

Not it must be said among UK riders, who seem more interested in the bike than the antics of Grayson on his tour of Bavaria, but from the naysayers who take it upon themselves to criticise the BBC, who broadcast an account of Perry’s journey, what ever that bastion of British broadcasting attempts to do.

English ceramic artist Grayson Perry is known mainly for his adult content vases and being the first ceramicist to win the prestigious Turner Prize. Which he did in 2003, attending the award ceremony in the guise of ‘Claire’, his female alter-ego.

Sometimes referred to as ‘troubled’ and ’eccentric’ Perry’s ‘take’ on the world is certainly different and his take on motorcycle touring is certainly unlike any other.

Perry’s detractors have almost certainly missed the point or are simple uninformed. For Perry, who has never owned a car, has a life long love of motorcycles and is reportedly a daily user of his currently owned Harley and KTM.

The tour itself saw Perry, accompanied by his teddy bear Alan Measles, riding his Kenilworth AM1 motorcycle from his home town of Chelmsford via Colmar, the Nurburgring, Wies, Schloss Neuschwanstein of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fame, the Steiff Teddy bear factory in Giengen to find journeys end in Backnang, Chelmsford’s twin town. Where Perry handed a goodwill message from the people of Chelmsford to a somewhat bemused local Burgermeister.

Bizarrely the account of the trip was broadcast on radio, which strangely enhanced the experience. With no visual cues it was left to the listener to imagine the reaction to Perry’s arrival and focus on his very personal explanation of the ride. Light years away from the usual ‘bikers must eat burgers and listen to heavy rock’ b*****ks we know and err love.

Perry’s work is controversial and thought provoking and his journey and the broadcast programme of it asks more questions than its answers. Why Grayson Perry? Why Germany? Why on a motorcycle? Why with a Teddy. Was it a puzzle to be answered or the height of self-indulgence paid for by BBC licence fees?

Does it matter? Who knows? But one thing is certain Perry’s ride was a refreshing change from the usual motorcycle touring offerings which seem to have become formulaic and boring.  Like the ‘gap year’ just another ‘tick’ in the box of the life questionnaire. More a vehicle for promoting BMW’s and touring ‘must haves’ than a recounting of personal experiences, the reasons behind and the ‘meets’ of the riders.

Thank you Grayson Perry, do it again soon!

Ride safe, and cuddle your teddy with pride!

© Back Roads Rider 2010

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2010 2:33 pm

    I am glad I stopped to read this today…thanks it was a good read. Well thought out

  2. Simon WB permalink
    November 22, 2010 4:34 pm

    Great story, thanks for posting!

  3. November 22, 2010 4:49 pm

    What a wonderful story and his Teddy Bear Alan Measles – superb!

    Like Cheshire cat I am glad I read this today and no Hairy Bikers or plying through the desert or wilderness.

    This is definitely not just a tick in the box!!

  4. Teapot permalink
    November 24, 2010 6:57 pm

    I totally agree with the article. While the programme itself wasn’t the best I’ve heard, it was a refreshing change from the predictable stuff normally associated with motorcycling. In fact, it wasn’t particularly about the bike, more about the journey, which is always better.

    The media, magazines more than anything, seem to have forgotten that it’s all about the riding, not about the product. There are a lot of people out there doing unusual things (maybe not as unusual as Grayson) on bikes, but very few are picked up because most people don’t actually publicise themselves – they’re doing it for the ride, not the glory.

    Just as one example of an interesting journey, Simon Gandolfi flew out to Mexico at the age of 73, bought a Honda 125 and rode it down to Tierra del Fuego. Being an ex-journalist, he decided to write a book about his experiences (and probably to make up his pension too). This should be an inspiration to all those low mileage riders that just think it’s about meet ups, burgers and whose got the loudest exhaust.


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