Motorcycling and Art

Why Motorcycling?

The interface of the aspects dance, encounter, journey, intellectual spaces, found realities and artistic transformation, all that concetrates in the phenomena of movement.

While it is relativly effortless to travel by airplane from one continent to another, the thrill of this project lies in riding around the world by the overland route. Exceptions need to made only between islands and necessary crossings of oceans.

The seeming taken-for-grantedness to have oneself transported to each point of the planet within one day, enables a superficial global concience, but veils the pleasent and unpleasent real conditions, without that the traveller needs to get involved with the situations.

What lies between the stations, is in this mode of transportation completly hidden. But what happens in the gaps makes up the essence of an artistic project, as well of a journey.

To ride the route physically by oneself, i.e. overcoming enormous distances in own responsability, passing through natural and political frontiers, but also the necessity to ride around countries like Afghanistan, passing through others despite political instabilities, all this changes the perception of time and the appreciation to reach a place to get into an artistic encounter.

Deceleration takes place not only on the riders side, because the coherence of journey, arrival, stay and departure are intrinsic components of the encounter.


One peculiarity on longer motorcycle rides is the evoked Zen-like state of mind. Under full concentration, but physically completly relaxed, the focus is forwarded, ready for the unknown. Permanently the previous impressions exchange with the new. One finds himself in the center of steady transition of landscape, circumstances and not least oneself, which seems to be a good condition for unbiased artistic encounters.

Still, the widly quoted "Feel of Freedom" is hardly communicable to non-riders on a piece of paper, on a screen or even in a conversation.

To accomplish this high degree of movement and independency in the interrelation with the surrounding and people one meets, is a central ideal for the project, for which one has to be in constant intellectual and spatial motion.

Even a certain degree of loneliness seems unavoidable, one needs to expose oneself occasionaly to live an independent life under the eyes of the others.

But in this project this look is used, virtually sought, without leading one of the two parties into conformity.

The form of mutual respect and appreciation, also the simultanious distance and proximity of the temporary encounter does not oblige at first. Certainly an ideal interface is revealed here, not to let this moment of trust disappear in triviality.

Eventually it is not about the isolated freedom of a single individuum. It is rather the creative interrelation, made to be able to make free decisions in coherences.

Therefor it is necessary, that at least one of two begins to move.


While other means of transportation in various projects dont need to be justified, in the Thetre field I have to fend off constantly the suspicion, that this is a private pleasure which I want to have financed, and moreover the necessity of this type of  movement would be unapparent.

Leaving aside the fact that a lot of work will be done in this project, the personal needs and motivations, with which motor one has to generate a project, are hardly explainable and discussable. Principal questioning of a conviction, based on affection or dislike towards a type of transport seems irrational, although these discussions show at least that there are indeed differences in quality, which influence the content.


The project has to be ridden with a motorcycle, because only this evokes the quality, wich allows me to execute it. The motorcycle is not only a symbol of independency and movement, but rather the doing of this locomotion effects an actual physical and intelectual quality, indispensible for the project.

Of course, one could perform a similar project on horseback, afoot, by car, or by bicycle. At the end of the day its me, who has to do it, and my choice is not the isolating car, not the horse, not the rails, and certaily not the airplane.

It is for me the right type of transportation in which I expose myself entirely to all difficulties, efforts, and not least personal transformations, which are owed to interhuman encounters and global artistic exchange, raising the appreciaton of those.

This quality of effort is no artificially installed function, but a necessity to attain reciprocal world-spanning encounters in the sense of the project.

 But also for the other participants the qualities of the mototcycle are directly accesible. Donees will ride pillon to frequent important places of their life together in the surrounding. Respectively they come along with me to the next station to participate activly in the development of the project, in case of a suitable route.


Furthermore, motorcycling offers some more practical advantages:

- The circumnavigation of the earth is manageable within a forseeable time

- Solidarity amongst motorcyclists is enormously strong

- The whole spectrum of most different professions and social groups can be found mongst motorcyclists .

- On route, one meets many people with a fascination for travelling through space, who are usually not in contact with contemporary art.

- In many parts of the world the motorcycle is understood as the cheaper mode of transport. Thus less barriers are put up.

- Flexible time and route organisation.

- Almost all places are accessible, even if they lie off the route.

- Once in a region the travelling is much more flexible and cheaper as sheduled flights.

- The attention, curiosity and helpfulness a motorcyclist gets, esp. in remote areas, supports the content of project.

- The individual and independent traveller is understood as such and accepted. Thus the project can be mediated better.

- The encounter with the traveller is limited in its legth, i.e. both allow themselves an intensed encounter because of this  shortness.

- The rider exposes himself to the landscape and weather analoque to to the artistic encounter.


Technical aspects:

Worldtourer are recognized by their lugged tire machines, equipped with large panniers, spare tire, duffle bag and spare can. Less common is as well the black leather suit.

Chopper, those are the motorcyles with long forks, as they appear in the film "Easy Rider", a film which has to serve often as an inappropriate example for motorcycle travels, are not at all suitable for longer travels.

Also noisy Harleys or sport machines are less often found close to the city areas.


The project will is done with a BMW R1200GS Triple Black (GS: Gelände/Strasse; (Offroad/Street)), manufactured 2011.

This machine is designed for long tours and is only topped in the sector of dual purpose travel machines by the BMW R1200GS Adventure (R1200GSA) with a bigger tank and longer range of spring. However, this model is heavier, higher and thus less manouverable in sand and mud.

The missing tank volume on the R1200GS can be evened with supplement canisters or modification, and the shorter spring range is with my comparable low body weight a marginal factor.

The off-road capability of both machines is highly discussed and many prefer a lighter and technically even simpler machine like the BMW 650GS/BMW800GS models, or comparable machines of other manufactures.

Since most of the route will be ridden on tarmac, the comfortable and strong R1200GS is the right choice for me.

Contact:                                                                              © Thomas Lehmen 2013