Magic carpet ride

A few months ago when we did a post on the Cambodian norry railway we searched high and low for similar DIY railways but all we found were high tech/high capital experimental projects. But we had something like this in the back of our minds,

and because it seemed such a good idea we knew someone would have done it already, somewhere. Well, here it is (via Cory Doctorow and BoingBoing), the Tapis Volant, part of the Train project by HeHe (artists Helen Evans and Heiko Hansen)

Seen above in Istiklal, Istanbul in 2005, they describe the mechanics of its magic.

Tapis Volant appears as a rectangular red cushion with beaded tassels dangling down from each of its sides. It runs along a single tram track, using it as a monorail, its wheels propelled by an electric motor. The cushion lies on top of a mechanical system that allows the driver to balance when seated in the Lotus position. This posture not only mimics the operation of a ‘real’ flying carpet, but also links body posture to movement in a way that driver has to be Zen to operate

We were interested to find that the underlying impulse for the project was a conscious understanding of adaptive reuse:

The TRAIN project shares the fascination for a personalised automated travel experience, however, its inspiration did not derive from a system of vehicles, but from the idea of using an existing architecture, The Petite Ceinture (The little belt) in Paris. The Petite Ceinture is a magic site: an industrial monument, a rail track that encompasses the city of Paris, abandoned in 1934 due to the extension of the metro lines towards the Paris suburbs.

As well as the Istanbul and Paris version (here seen near Basilique St Denis)

they have produced variations for events in Slovakia,

Valenciennes,

and a surfing version for San Jose.

The artists describe themselves as follows:

HeHe reverse cultural engineers the technological systems that surround us: From transport design to pollution monitoring, from public advertisement to meteorology, from architecture to public lightning. Their work seeks to go back in time, re-work past and as a result, re-phrase the existing into a new critical usage, a social function, with the spectator in its epicentre. At a time of ongoing technological expansion, progress starts to fray on its edges. How can we use and re-use, not only as a semiotic resistance against those who prey on the new, but also to return back to original invention, which have become clouded by recursive innovations. In this way, the work of HeHe is a process of reduction and subtraction until they find a point of departure, from which they can develop a usage with a plain functionality.

Translating the slightly clumsy artspeak, we think that means they are on about exactly the same thing as us, a back-to-fundamentals approach to adaptively reusing heritage and technology to bring about cultural change. Its always comforting to find a few more out there.

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