FEATURES

GRAYSON PERRY'S BIG AMERICAN MOTORCYCLE ROAD TRIP

TAKING A VIEW ON AMERICA FROM A COLOURFUL HARLEY

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Quite a few years ago, when Grayson Perry the artist, ceramicist, alter ego cross dresser and motorcyclist, was becoming more well known to the wider populaton rather than just the art world, I tried to set up an interview with the aim of finding out more about his background and biking activity.
It didn't happen. Not because Grayson was unwilling, he was just unavailable because of a very crowded schedule that took him all over the planet.

Thinking Outside The Box

I need to declare that I'm a fan of his art and his political perspective. He has made a number of TV programmes examining and challenging conventional ideas and perceptions about life and society, such as 'Why Men Wear Frocks' in 2005, 'All Man' in 2016, examining the meaning and attitudes towards masculinity and 'Divided Britain' in 2017, where he spoke to people about their decisions on whether to vote leave or remain in the 2016 Brexit vote. From each of these he created art depicting the viewpoints and experiences of the people across the country he spoke with.

Grayson Perry doesn't own a car. He rides motorcycles or cycles. His motorcycles reflect his flamboyant art style. None more so than the Harley based machine he had built to tour Germany, accompanied by his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles. An overwrought vision in pink and blue that is difficult to ignore, and was on display for a while in the British Museum.

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Motorcycle Art

In his current escapade, Grayson Perry's Big American Road Trip - undertaken last year (2019) before the plague broke over our lives - Perry doesn't disappoint as far as his latest bike is concerned. Another Harley decked out in a swirl of colours, and leathers to match, with two peace signs front and center. Not to everyone's taste in terms of motorcycle 'art', including myself; but he has never been afraid to put his art, opinions and observations out there.

In the series over three episodes on Channel Four, Perry aims to take the cultural and political temperature of the US, three years into the controversial period of Trump. He finds a country filled with rage and emotion over the killing of George Floyd and other black Americans, by US law enforcement.
In his introductory comments he states clearly that he aims to explore the race, class and identity divisions in the states. His first stop was in Atlanta, a city he describes as โ€œthe black capital of the USAโ€. He's never afraid to confront the big questions, and declares that the aim of this stopover was to see things "through black people's eyes".

In doing so he engages with people from across a wide cultural and wealth section of the black comunity, such as: a group of confident and assertive young women, who talk explicitly about their relationship to white men; a radio station host and his guests, who provide insights into how positive it feels for them to exist in a city where black officials such as the mayor and police chief have been in place for years. He visits a dentist, living in what we would consider a mansion, who talks of his anxiety when he was pulled over by the cops, as a black man driving a Mercedes - he did say he was speeding... a bit.

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On To Martha's Vineyard

Then via Washington DC he travels to Martha's Vineyard, an island on the north east coast near Cape Cod.
At Martha's Vineyard, an area colonised by rich educated people - the Obama's have an eleven million dollar property here - he manages to procure an invitation to a dinner party, where he had a spirited discussion about inequality, and was not afraid to upset his hosts with uncomfortable questions. He is honest enough in his commentary to put himself among the small percentage of elite liberals who make up this tribe.

Bikers For Trump

In episode three he gets to the state of Wisconsin, won narrowly in the 2016 election by Trump. A meeting is arranged with 'Bikers for Trump'. They are mostly old and grizzled, riding bikes of leviathan proportions. Clearly disturbed by some of the statements they made he declares after leaving the group: "How the f*** did you end up here Grayson".

Tribes

There are quite a few tribes identified and visited on his travels. People who feel comfortable with 'their own'.
A lot of motorcyclists would identify themselves as part of a tribe. Across the population they are as diverse and possibly divided as other sections of society, only having in common the enjoyment of owning and riding motorcycles.

Grayson Perry, an eccentric and outlandishly outfitted Englishman, was readily accepted by all the people and groups he visited and encountered. His questioning often touched a twitchy nerve with some, but his careful listening to the views of others, and his infectious laughter always carried the day.  

Warning: This programme contains opinions, observations and politics that may lead to further thinking or disagreement. But as he had painted on the sides of the tank of one of his Harley creations: 'Humility' and 'Patience'.
The three one hour episodes are available on All 4.

If you have watched, or are watching the series we'd love to hear your thoughts. Get in touch by emailing us at news@wemoto.com or tell us on Facebook!

Comments:

10/10/20 -I like the guy, a true English eccentric who talks a lot of sense.

10/10/20 -Be better than watching Boorman

10/10/20 - Watched all 3.
Intriguing, and well worth watching.
Grayson himself stands out at times as a voice of reason, and sensibility. For a bloke dressed in flames and peace signs on a garish Harley that's something of a feat to pull off.
Recommended viewing, which is a rarity these days.
๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ‘

10/10/20 -Great programme from the ones weโ€™ve seen. Perry is a true individual, and much more than his clothing choices - try it

09/10/20 -Might be worth a look. Flamboyant is a good word but still understated ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿ˜

09/10/20 -Brilliant show watch the lot Nice one John

Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 09 October 2020 in Features

Edited By: Denisa Orbulescu

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