Christmas Tree Uses Pedal Power

Every year the Tate Britain Art Museum commissions an artist to decorate its Christmas tree. Last year's was covered with guns and fighter planes, another was hung upside down and yet another year there was just a note saying the tree had been given to charity. This year's creation by Bob & Roberta Smith has an ecological and recycling theme.

Called "Make Your Own Xmas", it's big, ramshackle wooden structure made of recycled materials, including sandwich boards, tape, signs and an oil drum. Eight bicycles of various sizes have been fixed to stands around the "trunk" (bottom), each holding a generator that is connected to a set of light bulbs that decorate the tree. When happy children and chuckling adults hop on the bikes and pedal hard, the lights go on. With signs urging people to "Make your own power" and "Make your own fun", the artist is showing his subversive sense of humour and making an important point as well.

The decorations on the tree are all hand-made; the artist says that his inspiration was a drawing that his son did of a tree. The public has to work hard and get involved in the piece in order to light the lights. The artist says that this is better than just standing around and observing.

Bob and Roberta Smith is actually just one man who has been working for years to bring green issues to public attention in striking ways. His work expresses concerns over energy production and waste and consumerism. He created an eco-option for an art competition in Trafalgar Square and an art project highlighting the loss of local shops in London.

The bicycles and lighting were set up by Electric Pedals, a group that provides lighting, music and other interactions powered by bicycle generators. They have created a tea kettle powered by bicycle pedallers. For a recent festival, a huge oak tree was lit up with coloured lanterns, 15 of which were powered by bikes positioned around the tree. Tate Britain
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Tags: Artists | Electricity | Recycled Consumer Goods