Interview with Kpafun as told to Tim Devin.
Kpafun works with found objects. You’ve probably seen his creations around—modified bike frames or bike trailers decorated with stuffed animals, trash finds, multicolored duct tape, and anything else he can lay his hands on. Right now, there’s one parked on Somerville Ave. in front of Parts and Crafts, the family makerspace and community center where he works as a SpaceFuturExplorationProclamator.
He’s currently work on something mysterious called “The Space Future Historical Museum” in his studio space at the P.irateship (which is in the stand of brick buildings next to Market Basket). Kpafun is also a Gardener/Boogaloo Mixologist and has been learning how to play horns @ the School of HONK! He can be contacted at [email protected].
I work on bikes. Plants and gardening—I really enjoy that a lot. Music, the playing of music.
Recently they’ve just seem to come together. One of the things that I really, really want to work on right now is a tricycle with a few plants in it. There’s a way to make a shield over it, which would make a greenhouse made of PVC pipes (which make amazing musical instruments). That trike would be a nutshell, a delicious, rolling, tooting nutshell.
When I first started messing around with bikes, I didn’t really have a plan or anything. So a lot of my earlier materials were found in the trash. People get rid of things for various reasons, but to a Detrivore, they are all the good reasons. Sometimes it’s almost psychic—I’ll be thinking about how I could use this, and I’ll just walk past it in the trash. Score! Or seeing an object and not having a plan for it, but it’s definitely useful on THIS side of a landfill, so.
When I first started playing with bikes, I didn’t set out saying “Oh yes, I want to make art.” There was a “Mad Max” marathon, on AMC in 2009, and a picture of the perfect bike for BarterTown (DrWho runs BarterTown!) popped up in my head. The only problem with that was I hadn’t really ridden a bike in years, barely ever since childhood (Hi BlueRaleigh!) I knew nothing about making bikes. But I had this image. “Who needs 'facts'? THAT's what I wanna make!"
Someone on Elm Street was taking out their trash, and they had this silver bike, “Hmmm.” And then I found a shopping cart in the trash .One evening (while being very late for a party) I went out behind the house with a bungee cord, and there was the bike and the shopping cart. It just turned out that the shopping cart has a crossbar, and that the front dropout on the bike fit exactly right. And I strapped it down with the bungee cord. Releaaassee!!! the "Silver Beast.”
It was a friend's birthday on Cedar St and I rolled it over to give them a ride cos who doesn't wanna ride in a shopping cart on their birthday? :)
Which we somehow managed, and we go back inside to hang out. All of a sudden, the room cleared to the window side, like “Woooohoooooooo!!” and they reported back to flopped-on-couch-exhausted-but-'vindicated' Kpafun that there were weird bikes, stereos and DiscoBalls . And Disco. Rolling down the street..
And that was SCUL?
Yups! I took off after them, but they had turned the corner. No Fear! I had the DiscoDeathStar to guide me. It started raining and I finally caught up once they stopped for a break.
*Exchange of Wows for wildly different reasons*
Kpafun: Take me to your dealer.
Skunk: Hi, I'm Skunk. This is SCUL. We're gonna knight a maggot. Check it out if you want.
*Classified activities follow, Mind is Blown*
Not too long after that, riding Donkey up Summer Street, and there was Sprout [the makerspace near Davis] on “have fun with electricity day,” and I walked in there, and there was Moose (a SCUL pilot, whose presence calmed me down enough to check out the scene).
From the trash to SCUL to sprout to the Acetarium to CommunitySpoke and Circle Amory to NOLA to the 9thWard (Take it to the Bridge!) to NovemberHaus to Parts and Crafts, to P.irateship to....??
And that’s how it’s been, in Somerville. Not to be biased or anything, but Somerville’s one of the few places where the sequence of these things could happen.
Which is why I secretly call it AweSomerville. Cos it is.
One thing I always loved about SCUL was how they take public space back, and do these fun impromptu celebrations. And that’s beyond how DIY the bikes are. It seems like you’re involved in both—DIY creations, and reclaiming public space.
People say taking back public space. I understand, appreciate and participate in that vibe as much as I can but my things are/were on the street because I've had serious trouble with acquiring and maintaining proper storage space for my 'work'.
It was actually in front of this building that I learned (the hard way) that not only cahs got towed. It was my brother’s wedding, and I got the idea to build him and his lovely bride a float out of trash/found objects. I spent two weeks on it putting it together and THEN learned that not everyone wants to ride a trash float on their wedding day(??). So I locked it out front on Som Ave, made sure there was enough space for two people with prams to go by and took off for the wedding.
Three days later, it got towed by the DPW and parked right in front of the city's supply of winter salt.
1) Donkey and friends got towed.
2) The DPW had to come out with heavy equipment and divert traffic to do the do.
1) Donkey and co got to visit the salt mines for two weeks ,hopefully learned their lesson and took epic pictures of personal repentance.
2) It was my first real interaction with Wenzday Jane, Owner of MetroPedalPower who saw the towperation, pinged her network, got my number and alerted me of the situation when she didn't have to do a thing. I currently work @ MPP as Dr ParkRanger , tracking down and relocating other people's recycling cos Karma! :)
Lesson learned: Do not park 'bikethings' of that size and 'optical profile' on city streets .com.
A few months later, Donkey got towed for ransom on the other side of the SAME building. Long story, but it was pretty bad. I ended up moving to MedFrodo for a while to watch the ransom gain zeroes.
Lesson Learned: Invisibility Shields are waaaay overrated (I demand a refund!). Also, if u get towed by a private towing company, you are classified and billed as a engined vehicle. Which has its ups and downs. For a Donkey.
Is it because they’re so big? Or something else?
It’s a size thing, but there's also a optical/social bit. If it looks like 'trash', it affects how people feel about it in 'their backyard'.
In general, I don’t regret any of these things, but I wish I knew some of the things I know now. Maybe I'd do some things different, period or not at all, but hindsight is always 20/20.
I love you all,
def the people who vocally appreciate weird plopped in the former blank of empty space :)
also those who complain to City Hall cos the uncertainty/unsightliness/unwhatever in 'their backyard',
but especially those who just keep going on with their thing because/despite whatever is different in the immediate environment. No yaaays!, no boos! just enough assessment/adjustment to make it past the 'weird' and on with the day as planned.
“If not you, then who?
If not who, then Boogaloo!”