In the 3rd part of our series from the Imprint Culture Lab conference produced by InterTrend Communications and sponsored by Bread & Butter, we take a look at the changing dynamics and trends of transportation and what it means to today’s new generation. As one of the more intriguing and diverse panels at Imprint, which took place at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles October 1, the panelists crossed several subcultures and included moderator Fred Chang from Jtuned.com, panelists, Mark Arcenal, founder and director of Fatlace and a member of the Nike Global Digital Design Group, Shinya Kimura, artist and founder of Chabott Engineering, Wan Lee, the man who rode to 37 different U.S. National Parks via a Ruckus bike, Ken Gushi, a driver for Team Drift Scion, and Jerry Tsai, owner of Pacific Rim Motorsport Fashion.
The movement towards caring about your ride has been evolving over the last decade, and especially become more interesting as subcultures such as the fixed gear cycling movement has taken off among urban hipsters in major cities. As we’ve written about before, more people are taking to the streets, reclaiming their roads, and riding on bikes and other modes of transportation that are slightly different and more personal than hopping in your average car these days. As gas prices continue to be an issue and as the economy sours and environment erodes, riding fixed gear bikes or bikes in general has taken on new meaning to a group of self-professed “beautiful losers” to borrow an expression from artist-director Aaron Rose and become a lifestyle. The Cult of Transportation tapped into such DIY aesthetics such as the growing passion for the old-school Ruckus bike, popular in places such as Japan and South Korea, but a coveted EBay find in the United States (and creating a society within the bike movement).
Ruckus rider Wan Lee started an entire cultural movement when a year ago, he came to the United States from South Korea for the sole purpose to ride across the United States and visit many of the beautiful national monuments he had read about in National Geographic. Since he couldn’t afford a car or the insurance, gas, and other things, he realized the Ruckus was the way to go. As he put it, “What’s so wrong with going 40 mph and seeing the country that way than 65mph from highways?” Along his way, he posted his ride online and attracted thousands of fans who would come out to support him. From the new friends and fans, he started a fundraiser for non-profits via his expedition. Ruckus enthusiasts Mark Arcenal who’s probably more well-known for Fatlace as a sneaker-freaker connoisseur, is also a major Ruckus fan and collector as is Jerry Tsai from Pacific Rim Motorsport who started a fashion lifestyle brand around the scenes of Ruckus and Drifting.
What’s been interesting about the Drifting scene is how popular it’s become in the United States, creating an entirely new race division called Formula Drift. Originally starting as a subculture in the canyons of Japan where people would DIY their old Nissans and practice carving around corners or drifting, drifting as an underground sport was picked up in the United States among a predominately Asian-American youth culture market on the back canyon roads of southern California. In a few years, the art of drifting became not only an entire event series with major automotive sponsors, but added to the growing after-market car market whereby young people were spending more on tricking-out their trashed Toyotas and Nissans than spending on the original car itself.
Enter Shinya Kimura from the panel and you have the “art” component of the Cult of Transportation. This artist has transformed Harley Davidson’s into sleek bikes that are art installations in and of themselves. He’s also created artistic documentaries showcasing his Harley’s being ridden in various parts of the country, particularly the stark landscapes of the desert salt flats, which bring to light low-fi as high-fi art in a Blade Runner, apocalyptic way.
What’s interesting when you think about all of these topics is that the goals of these passionate transportation fans are in the details and the art of utilitarian. From fixed gear bikes that are paired down bicycles with one gear and usually no brakes, to the war-era Ruckus, after-market Drifters, and art-form Harley’s each act as symbols of a lifestyle: the culture of action and using transportation as that message. Skateboarding is also a part of this groove, especially among urban dwellers who look at the urban detritus of their surroundings as potential places to hit-up with various tricks, or looking at a traffic jam in a new way -as obstacles to be carved around to meet your destination. It’s all very punk rock.
As any strong movement grows, so too does a new industry, including of course the after-market car industry, as well as bike shops, motorbike shops for classic rides, events such as Midnight Rides in various cities, art shows showcasing the creative energy of the art of movement, and self-made videos and documentaries such as what Shinya creates or the ever-popular Bicycle Film Festival.
Overall, the growing cult of transportation is a message about a way of life -about seeing the joy of the ride as part of getting from point A to point B and recreating the experience of the journey as the goal instead of the destination.
Stay tuned next week for the Cult of Collaborations with Hiroshi Fujiwara from Fragment Design, Jeff Staple from Staple Design, John Jay creative director from Weiden Kennedy, David Wilson from Kangol Headwear, and Michael Kuhle from Lomographic Society.