Sam Hopkins // “The Bike Gang” // Februar-März, Dezember 2016

Opening questions for the project with CAT Cologne were: Is there something universal about biking? An sensorial and emotional experience bikers are sharing wherever they are riding their bikes? Something that could be described as a culture of biking? With an attention to differences and commonalities between bike communities of Cologne and Nairobi, Sam Hopkins was in conversation with many kinds of bikers, from people who ride their bikes merely to move around in the city to professional courier bikers.

Perhaps one of the unforeseen consequences of Nairobi’s recent urban transformations has been the emergence of a bicycle subculture. To choose be a biker, as with any subculture, means to adopt an identity, a sense of belonging that runs counter to traditional, inherited identities such as gender or ethnicity. Nevertheless, whilst biking, and other subcultures, seem autonomous from traditional institutions of power, as a means of self-expression they are closely wedded to global capitalism, for which subcultures are simply another form of profit.

Over the last two years Sam Hopkins and John Kamicha worked with strategies of collective filmmaking and collaborative re-enactment to explore what biking means for a group of bikers from Githurai. Here, cycling is less about keeping healthy or about getting from A to B and more about excess, a tendency distilled in the practice of hanging: cycling in the slipstream of trucks on the highway. “The Bike Gang” situates these moments of extreme athletic prowess within the deeper existential project of this subculture. Besides the project with CAT Cologne, there were presentations at the Acadmy of the Arts of the World and Goethe Institut Nairobi.


During the project, the podium‘s discussion and performance “African Artivism. Kunst als politische Aktion” at Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World (RJM) was organized in collaboration with Competence Area IV (CA IV) of the University of Cologne, Heinrich-Barth-Institut and Voices of Africa/Allerweltshaus. The performance took place simultaneously in Cologne and Nairobi, with a team of bikers in each city, which cycled an ampersand and filmend their parcours. The challenge was a “city mapping” by means of gps tracing, which was projected on a split screen at Ebertplatz in Cologne.

Eine Version des Filmes “The Bike Gang”, der dokumentarische und narrative Techniken miteinander verbindet, wurde schließlich als multi-screen Installation bei CAT Cologne und in der Akademie der Künste der Welt gezeigt. Die AdKdW veranstaltete im Rahmen der PLURIVERSALE zudem ein Gespräch zwischen Sam Hopkins und dem Kunsttheoretiker und Aktivisten Neil Cummings.

Termine | Dates

Freitag, 12. Februar, um 19 Uhr -> social night, artist talk

Sonntag, 10. April -> podium‘s discussion and performance “African Artivism. Kunst als politische Aktion” Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Kulturen der Welt (RJM)

Die Veranstaltung wurde in Kooperation mit dem RJM, der Competence Area IV (CA IV) der Universität zu Köln, dem Heinrich-Barth-Institut e.V., der Heinrich Barth Gesellschaft und Stimmen Afrikas/Allerweltshaus e.V. Köln organisiert. Begleitet wurde die Veranstaltung von einer Fahrrad-Performance, bei der jeweils ein Team von Fahrern in Köln und in Nairobi parallel zueinander eine durch ein Unendlichkeitszeichen vorgegebene Strecke abfuhren.

Mittwoch, 23. November, 19 Uhr -> filmscreening and conversation between Sam Hopkins and the art theorist and activist Neil Cummings in collaboration with PLURIVERSALE V at the Academy of the Arts of the World / Akademie der Künste der Welt ACADEMYSPACE, Herwarthstr. 3, 50672 Köln

24. November – 16. Dezember -> Ausstellung / Filmscreening / Projektabschluss

The Bike Gang, HD video, 30′, 2016, Swahili and English with English subs



Sam Hopkins (*1979, Rome) grew up between Kenya and England. He has studied Philology and History in Edinburgh and Cuba before passing his MFA in Oxford and Weimar. He currently works between Cologne and Nairobi. Hopkins’ artistic practice employs a diverse range of techniques to engage with the question of how narratives and truths are embedded, encoded and produced by different media. Interested in how collectively-produced images work to produce counter-narrations of identity his work orbits around the negotiation of participatory practice. He co-initiated the grassroots media collective Slum TV, was a core member of the public space activists Urban Mirror and is a frequent collaborator of the Nairobi-based collective Maasai Mbili.

Hopkins has participated in various international exhibitions, including biennales in Dakar (S) Poznan (PL) and Moscow (RU) and has exhibited at a wide range of museums and galleries, including Kunsthaus Bregenz (A) the Goodman Gallery (SA) and Richard Taittinger Gallery (USA). His work is held in the collections of the Smithsonian (US), Abteiberg Museum (D), the Iwalewahaus (D). In 2014 he was named one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy (FP) Magazine. Hopkins is currently a PhD research candidate at the University of the Arts London (UAL).

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