October 2, 2013

To Confront a Thief

So you're not a bike ninja. You're not the type to get up in the grill of a guy who has the better of you weight-wise and a potential bludgeon in his back pocket to boot. But is it okay to see a bike theft in progress and just walk right by?

People do it all the time, even when the theft is occurring in broad daylight on a Vancouver thoroughfare and the crooks are wielding axes and two-by-fours. Does observing a crime and failing to take action—whether it be confronting the criminal or alerting authorities—make you a bad person? Complicit somehow?

These are questions a friend wanted me to force the public to consider by transforming my cut cable lock—pictured in the inaugural BTB post—into a provocative art installation.

Situate the cut lock in a high-traffic area, he said, like Dupont Circle on the weekend or during a weekday lunch hour. He had several suggestions for the text that could adorn a poster board next to the lock, but a clear favorite emerged: "Fuck You."

Now passersby might initially assume the profanity to be directed at a presumed thief, but then, as they perhaps averted their eyes from the unsettling sight, it might occur to them that the artist was cursing them, too, as members of a society that not only drives its citizens to lives of crime but too often fails to acknowledge this reality or do anything about it.

A fitting audio-visual addition to the installation might be ABC's What Would You Do? bike theft episode running on a loop (or motion-activated somehow?). It's enough to make anyone reflect a little. (You can get away with bike theft as long as you're white? If you're an attractive woman, men will help you steal a bike? WTF?)

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