Sunday, May 4, 2008

Kinetic Race 2008 a Big Success in Baltimore

Wilma and the Wombats, Fifi and Platypus were crowd favorites at the 10th annual Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, hosted by the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). The annual race started under overcast clouds and a great turnout of artists, tinkerers and onlookers. Twenty-nine Kenitic Sculptures registered for this eight hour race that wraps around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, to Canton Waterfront, Patterson Park and downtown area before returning to the starting point at the AVAM.

While the distance covered is about 15 miles there are a few stops for testing these human powered, amphibious works of art. The first stop, after making the steep climb up Federal Hill under human-power, thereby demonstrating the street worthiness of the movable art pieces, is the Canton Waterfront. Here they travel down the boat ramp into the water circling either the dock or the marker buoys in the harbor. At least one sculpture sank in the early attempts while others drifted a bit with the current. Those that got away required a gentle nudge from the volunteers in kayaks. One of the favorites was the Wilma and the Wombats (Wayward Outcast Musicians Battling Apocalyptic TribulationS) who entertained the crowd with a 12 piece jazz band.

The spectators were spectacular along the entire route of the race as they turned out in all manner of wacky and colorful outfits and kinetic things on their heads. There were also Kinetic Chickens, who are volunteers to help with answering questions and giving directions. They should have an award for the zaniest getup. The photographers were out in full force. It seemed as if everyone had a camera or cell phone, taking pictures and thoroughly enjoying the day.

The race continues on to Paterson Park where the kinetic sculptures are field tested in mud and sand before returning to the museum and award ceremony. We saw one entry with a flat tire on the way to the Park requiring the whole team to lift the vehicle.

This is a timed race, assuming you make through the water torture and obstacle course. There are Kinetic Cops who patrol the event handing out tickets to entrants when they break the rules resulting in a time penalty. According to the race officials, these cops are known to accept bribes to overlook all but the coveted ACE award and safety rules.

There are a number of awards for these adventurers, often called Kinetinauts because of their fearless artist engineer and piloting skills. There is the coveted Art award for artistic design, the ACE award for completing the race entirely under human pilot power with no pushing or pulling of the sculpture. This year we saw the creative, and large Bumpo the elephant sculpture get disqualified for this award because it could not exit the water under it’s own power. I think they should have given the elephant a break, he was great getting in and around the water, he was also probably the heaviest sculpture. Bumpo will still be eligible for the people’s choice award.
Awards will be presented at an awards ceremony at the AVAM. Come back for the updated version later, with all winners listed. The winners of this race will qualify for the big race later this year in California, in the 40th annual Kinetic Sculpture Race. The California course covers approximately 42 miles of sand, water, pavement, hills, more water, roads and freeways from Arcata to Ferndale and is over a three day period.