The Sydney Body Art Ride gets on the Road for the World
by Sandra Ortiz
What would you think if you see 300 people cycling around the streets of Sydney with just a helmet and their bodies painted? Do you know they can get thousands of dollars for being part of this ride?
It sounded very eccentric for me too when I first heard about The Sydney Body Art Ride (SBAR) a couple of months ago. However, after meeting Jake Lloyd Jones, its creator and organiser, it all made sense for me then.
Besides their full time jobs, the SBAR community members manage to come up with new activities during the year, so they can reach Sydney commuters’ minds and hearts.
Manly promotional ride
For instance, they have just created a new intriguing art project, called Bicycle Triptych, to launch it this November 6th, on the Road:Rode Exhibition in Newtown, as a preview for the original Sydney Body Art Ride that will be held on February 2009.
Road:Rode is the third exhibition, curated by Mitra Jovanovic, in At The Vanishing Point’s (ATVP) Emerging Curator Mentorship Program as part of the 8th Annual International Bicycle Film Festival Sydney 2008, which opens on November 1st.Bicycle Triptych is a dreamlike, quasi-religious picture framed in three panels not unlike Old Russian Orthodox Icons. The work depicts the unique relationship between the cyclist and the road, drawing on the symbolism of gender as expressed by the French nouns for bicycles and road”, Jake explains.
“In one panel a woman painted silver represents “La Bicyclette” (the bicycle), in another a man is painted black as “Le Chemine” (the road) and in the last frame they both come together in a loving, harmonious balance of Ying and Yang”.
What is really SBAR’s reason for being?
The Sydney Body Art Ride is a non-profit community, which puts on an annual bike ride in order to promote sustainable living and to raise money for the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia. The ride encourages participants of all ages to cover their bodies in paint and ride as a rainbow to signify hope, commitment, and the connection of all living things.
“It all started as an experiment, one day I was sitting down in a meeting with some friends, thinking about doing something that could draw media attention without any publicity”, says Jake with that careless look and cheering smile that characterise him.
"We're promoting healthy sustainable living and the main focus of that message is to ride your bike to work instead of driving a car."
As Jake Lloyd Jones is a bike activist he came up with the idea of doing a bicycle ride, in order to promote cycling as a means for transportation and support Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s Bike plan.
Councillor John Mc Inerney is one of Moore’s independent team and explains that, “Sydneysiders already know the benefits of cycling – it’s good for their health, good for the environment and also good for their wallet. It’s also one of the fastest ways to get around the CBD”.
Getting ready to ride, the cyclists join their colour groups
Jake knew he needed to spice things up; otherwise it was just going to be one more of many other regular rides which people are used to and because of the low or lack of budget, it wasn’t going to be worthy at all.
Choose whatever colour you like best
Without caring about how this brand new idea would be digested by Sydney’s commuters and especially the media, he decided that all the participants needed to have their bodies painted and ride towards the beach as a human rainbow.
Riders march down to South Maroubra beach to wash off their paint
Not only is the project environmental friendly, it is cancer friendly too – 100% of the proceeds from the event are donated to the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia.
“When my first wife had leukaemia she was in the hospital of St. Vincent for a long time, and while we’re going in an out there, we got to know lots of the kids there and those kids are quite special people, they have a big impact on you when you meet them …”
Never have had organized anything before but his daughters’ birthdays. However, as he is as bold as brass, he trusted the cause and followed his instincts.
The first Sydney Body Art Ride was held on Australia three years ago, after a few months of an uncertain pre production period and some promotional rides.
Even though that Sunday, February 13th 2005, you could breathe excitement and anxiousness from the volunteers and the organizer team, Jake was still with that unique smile that could even make a child believe that going to the dentist is fun time!
On its first edition, the SBAR obtained $11,000 out from 183 riders, on behalf of the CCIA. Every participant left a spectrum of hope for these kids on the years to come.
Besides the fact that the first media coverage highlighted the “nudity” part of this event, the Sydney Body Art Ride left clear that its point is not about travelling through the streets as God brought us to earth.
SBAR 2IC Wendy paints a rider
Why to ride for?
It is more than that. It’s about promoting the establishment of off-road cycle ways alongside every major railway line, with the purpose of fighting global warming and getting fit, by replacing some of the regular car trips with bike rides.
It’s about raising money for the CCIA, in order to finance their scientific researches that might allow them to find a cure.
It is about bringing into life a visual art for social inquiry, as a human expression that appeals to people’s emotions.
Finally but not least, it is a group of “beautiful” people from every age, enjoying their freedom of expression, creation and even of choice – it’s up to you how much clothes to wear on.
Since then, this same phenomenon happens annually every February, with the exception of this last year when the SBAR team decided to take a break to chill out and recharge the batteries.
At least once, we all have been talking about global warming since a while, well now it is time to practice what we have preached. You may think this ride is too little to solve these problems but the most people believe the contrary, the faster and better effects we will get.
It is time to stop talking and roll up our sleeves! The Sydney Body Art Ride will be back on the Road on February 15th, 2009. Meet on the Physics Lawn at UNSW from 10.00am. BYO Bicycle, helmet, shoes and swimmers. A luggage van will deliver your gear to the beach for you.