’Naked Bike’, my current series, involves women riders and their motorcycles. I’ve been riding since the late eighties, and have sometimes considered ‘riding while female’ as a gendered performance piece involving the display of the female body combined with a machine that has had mostly masculine associations.
I started the project by asking volunteers to consider this: When you ride, you wear gear that protects you, like a helmet etc. What happens when the ride stops, you take off the helmet and walk into ‘female’? The answers and ideas in response have been overwhelming with ‘Naked Bike’ being very much a work progressing.
There’s a rich history of women’s bodies, nude and clothed, portrayed in art. Much of this historical portrayal has ranged from the casually misogynistic to outright sexism. After a still ongoing struggle for awareness and rights, many women are now controlling, owning and celebrating the narrative of their bodies.
The Naked Bike Project is a performance of that narrative, concerning the language and agency of the contemporary female body combined with a machine traditionally associated not only with men, but sexuality, rebellion and freedom.
The motorcycles portrayed cease to be mere moving vehicles but become a symbol and extension of contemporary female sensuality. It’s curves echoing the form of the body, the motorcycle functions as a lover, a prop, a site for the expression of utter physicality. The female bikers who have volunteered for the project share a love of riding and a willingness to be vulnerable for an idea: re-imagining the portrayal of their bodies in combination with their beloved machines. The images of Naked Bike are as diverse as the individuals being portrayed.
Women riders and machine can be one—cyborgs rejecting the boundaries and social mores that separate human from machine. In some pictures the women are covered in gear for the sport, but also can function here as armor, a mysterious shell, a hidden space. In others, that protective layer is gone. Naked, the women project what protects them, or not, as female.
My work isn’t about documenting the visibility of the growing number of female riders, but a change in the very culture we’re in. This is not just about/for women, this freedom of thought is for everyone.
A work in progress, ultimately Naked Bike is about the journey, the beginning of a provocative and culture-shifting ride.