Solo for Bicycle is one of a small series of six linocuts – the others being Splash, Portrait, Rumours, Hadeda and Floral Dress – created at the David Krut Workshop in 2010. Despite the scarcity of linocuts in Kentridge’s oeuvre up until this point, one of the first prints he made in 1976 after finishing high school was a linocut: an image of his grandfather in a deck chair wearing a three-piece suit while on holiday in Muizenberg, just outside Cape Town. Although the extent of the facilities available to Kentridge at the time was limited to “lino, cartridge paper and the back of a spoon”, he has cited the image as one of the sources for the character, Soho Eckstein, who first appeared in Kentridge’s 1989 film, Johannesburg: 2nd Greatest City After Paris and is the main protagonist in the Drawings for Projection cycle of nine films made between 1989 and 2003.
Kentridge returned to linocut in 2000, for the creation of the monumental pair of linocuts, Walking Man and Telephone Lady, and comes back briefly to the medium in this group of prints, perhaps as groundwork for the large-scale linocut project, the Universal Archive series of linocuts that he embarked on with the David Krut Workshop in 2012.
The polymathic nature of Kentridge’s practice allows any selection of work to always contain traces of projects past or yet to come, as well as a particular sensitivity to medium. This cluster of six linocuts were all created during the course of 2010 and reference Kentridge’s production of The Nose opera in March 2010; his 2010 exhibition in the Egyptian Collection wing of the Louvre; work towards The Refusal of Time, a collaborative video installation realised at Documenta 13; and, perhaps most significantly, the return of Soho Eckstein in an animated film, Other Faces, premiered in May 2011 at Kentridge’s exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York.
Solo for Bicycle is based on a series of megaphone sculptures that Kentridge was creating in late 2010 for his interactive performance/installation called The Refusal of Time, which was developed in collaboration with Peter Galison, Physics Professor at Harvard University, and was presented at Documenta 13 in 2012. In The Refusal of Time, in which science meets art, our continually shifting grasp of the concept of time is interrogated. The project combines performance with pre-filmed projections, live sounds with pre-recorded sounds, performers, props, costumes, an opera singer, choir and incorporates the audience, who is encouraged to interact with different parts of the set.
The bicycle references the bicycle wheels used in a sculpture that forms part of the installation. Solo for Bicycle is based on a loose drawing of the performers’ movements with a sculpture that features bicycle wheels. The wheels are turned by the hand of the performer and make a small noise when a stick touches the spokes on the wheel. The wheel only spins because of the performer who is, at the same time, shouting through a megaphone – their “solo” performance.