Meet The Artist: Richard Wilks on Evotrope” for No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man”

  • Inspired by Steampunk and 1970s bike culture, Richard Wilks’ Evotrope is a three-wheeled vehicle that explores the artist’s connection to the natural world.

    RICHARD WILKS: My name is Richard Wilks. I’m here with my “Evotrope” at the Renwick Gallery. My personal background is in ‘70s bike culture, racing BMX bikes back in the ‘70s, that kind of thing. Bikes have always been an important piece to me. For many reasons, I like this scale, this size. It’s about eight feet tall and twelve feet long, and it’s like a two or three-person experience either driving it or really engaging with it. It’s built on three unicycles. The front person steers with their hips. They are able to turn just like a unicycle, but it’s on a post so it’s something that you can rotate and not worry about falling over obviously. Then the two rear unicycles really give you the power. They don’t have to worry about turning, those unicycles just point directly forward. With that three-point unicycle system that’s what propels all of us. It’s deceptively lightweight. It looks heavy, but it’s really lightweight, so the person in the front can actually steer and drive with no problem.

    The fun thing is, and sometimes I’ve gone out on the Playa where I go out on my own and I’ll see two people walking and I’ll say, “hey, do you want a ride?” People will ask, “hey, can we help you out?” So many times, it has happened like that. You give people rides. That’s one of the layers of interaction that that piece has.

    It’s a very steampunk inspired piece. I think you can see, it’s important to see the craft that a human being touched this on every little ripple, so the artwork takes on different themes. I’ll change out the blades. In this case, I’m exploring the way I personally connect with the natural world. Because of technology for me, I’ve started to lose that connection. I just wanted to remind myself that I’m a human being and a part of this larger whole. A lot of times my work tends to be circular in nature. In this case, this artwork, the eye represents humanity and then the fish jumping into the eye is the natural world. That holistic balance, that’s what that represents. There aren’t that many festivals where I can bring a mobile contraption. That’s probably the main inspiration for me that Burning Man became was being able to blend making these kinds of mobile contraptions and mobile art and that freedom to do that, freedom to express that. Transportation and art, just merging those together.