Monday, May 10, 2010

Wall of Death

This public art installation is situated beneath the north end of the University Bridge and adjacent to the Burke-Gilman Bicycle Trail in the University District. The meaning was not at all obvious to me, anyway, until I did some research.

Brian Miller of The Seattle Weekly newspaper wrote "... The Wall of Death may occupy ... the worst site for public art in Seattle." Installed in 1993 on a small and hidden parcel of neglected land under the bridge, it is the work of Canadian sculptor Mowry Baden and his architect son, Colin Baden. Mr. Miller goes on to write that "only older trail users are likely to know what ... "The Wall of Death" signage and shape signify." Dating back to the 1920-1930's, it is a reference to a motorcycle daredevil act where competitors would ride motorcycles around the inside of a circular wooden ring, 20' to 36' in diameter with vertical sides. At the bottom of the barrel a ramp would allow the cyclists, after gaining enough speed, to work their way up the wall until they were clinging to the vertical surface by centrifugal force and horizontal to the ground. Not a stunt I'm likely to even think about trying!!!

Here is a Wiki article that gives more description and history, and here is a video of one of these events in the UK. And here is another video shot in Sturgis, SD in 2007. Crazy!! Hang on, because you may become dizzy!

16 comments:

Bibi said...

Don't do it, Chuck! Interesting photo of a place I do not know!

lewi14 said...

I don't like the sound of this. It seems to me dangerous to go there. Take care! No kidding, it's an impressive shot. I like it.

Hilda said...

I actually know about the Wall of Death stunt because of Evel Knievel, whose televised performances we watched eagerly when we were kids. I think the artists got it right.

Kate said...

Doesn't sound like my kind of fun. I am always amazed at what humans do to amuse themselves.

Rebecca said...

Wow, interesting what people with think if!

Wayne said...

I got the reference pretty quickly. Maybe it's a Canadian thing :-)

When it came to the fair when I was a kid I recall it as 'the Dust Bowl' or some kind of 'bowl' but my memory isn't 100% reliable on these things. I do remember the noise was nuts, the bikes didn't have mufflers.

I have a feeling the whole thing would be shut down in a heartbeat today. I don't remember there being much of a barrier to stop the bikes from going over the top and into the crowd.

cieldequimper said...

Thanks for providing the scary background. Loved yesterday's bridge shot!

irondad said...

It's a good thing there weren't spikes in the bottom of the barrel.

Interestingly, I think the bike Elvis rode was a Honda Dream 305. Guess it had to be small to work properly.

Luis Gomez said...

Chuck, once again a great post. Thanks for the image and info.

Louis la Vache said...

Crimony! «Louis» got vertigo just reading this!

Don and Krise said...

As a kid I can remember seeing this done at circuses and on some TV shows. I haven't seen anyone ride the barrel in ages though. Interesting place to put this.

T. Becque said...

As appealing as that sounds I probably won't be trying it. But I do love your shot with that red and bicyclist.

EG Wow said...

Oh my goodness! I'm glad to hear you won't be trying that stunt. I had never heard of the Wall of Death before.

Dina said...

All these Wall of Death stunts drive me crazy. I'm not going to your video links. Gosh, I can't even bear to watch videos of my less than 6 year old grandson doing skateboard tricks.
But ... the sculpture is interesting.

Joni James said...

Very interesting post! I think I'll go to circus school!

Ineke said...

thanks for the explanation and that guy in yellow gives it a nice touch.

You might also enjoy ...

Related Posts with Thumbnails