Imagine a bus with no front, back, or doors, just windows, set up in front of the Law Courts in Valletta. This is Joyride, a doughnut-shaped bus built to scale, only if buses were round. Created by artist Emanuel Bonnici, Joyride will be in Republic Street, Valletta, as part of ‘Science in the City’ festival taking place today.
Genetic engineering is one of the most powerful and, probably, frightening new scientific techniques to emerge recently. It involves the insertion, or manipulation, of DNA — the stuff of life. Since DNA gives shape to our hair, dictates the height we can reach and our form, Joyride provokes viewers to ponder on which tinkering we should do.
Through gene therapy, genetic engineering could cure incurable diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease, but it could also lead to ecological devastation through certain genetically modified organisms.
Emanuel Bonnici says: “The dual aspects of circles are intrinsic within Joyride. The street installation also nods towards other recent scientific advances, which can have controversial implications. It is up to the viewer to decide, whether the circle is futile or a masterstroke of nature and science.”
Interaction with Joyride can be real or imagined: an act of play inviting the viewers to participate in different ways that open doors to such possibilities. Will the audience go round in circles hoping to find the front or back of the bus? The re-modelling of the iconic bus activates our potential to think differently about how we respond to what we see.
A fascinating shape, both in science and in art, the circle was first mathematically described by the Greeks (around 300 BC), seeing it as the perfect form. Circles helped humans make the wheel, drive agriculture, and domesticate animals. Without understanding its properties, the circle would simply not exist in life.
Our fascination with circles has also led to conservative ideas that have held back science and technology. Since circles were the perfect form, and the planets and stars were seen as godly spheres, then it was assumed. To make the data fit ideology, both Greek and Arabic scholars made planets go round in circle upon circle in a structure so complex it needed the finest sculptors to represent. German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer Johannas Kepler (1571 – 1630) changed this ideology with uncomfortable fact that planets go round the sun in ellipses not circles that is a simpler and more elegant explanation, but got excommunicated for his beliefs.
One of the critical goals of Bonnici’s work remains that of questioning prescribed cultural identities and how the majority of the viewers seem to passively reify them. For a complete portfolio of Bonnici’s work one can visit: www.emanuelbonnici.com
Joyride is one of the interesting activities happening during ‘Science in the City’ as part of EU-wide event Researchers’ Night aiming to enhance public recognition of researchers and their work. The events offer a variety of fun-learning activities through interactive science shows, talks and science-inspired art and installations for all the family.
Emanuel Bonnici’s Joyride was curated by Lily Agius Gallery and St James Cavalier assisted in the construction of the doughnut-shaped bus.