In the awareness muscle training center in Museum Villa Stuck, there are a series of exercise machines that visitors use while being asked questions by the exhibition’s instructors. One of these machines is an exercise bike, one with a large wind function in its wheel, which powers out wind from the front while in use. The bike sits on top of a carpet designed by Geoffroy with a diagram of a hurricane on it. The bike and the carpet work in combination with one another, as when a visitor uses the bike, they cause it to create wind, this wind metaphorically creating the hurricane underneath. This is to symbolize the direct consequences each human can have on the earth, how our actions cause reactions and some of them negative. 

The bike works in connection with the papillon or butterfly machine; while the papillon focuses on people’s abilities to create a positive change in the world, the bike shows people how they can be responsible for negative changes. The instructors start off by asking the visitor if they think their existence could have a destructive impact on the world. The responses were very divided, split between yes and no. Many mentioned driving a car or eating meat as possible reasons for causing harm, others were adamant that they did not do anything more damaging than anyone else did. The questioning extends onwards to the concepts of apathy and empathy. Most people were ready to say they were empathetic, a few people readily admitted they weren’t. Interestingly enough, many people were unfamiliar with the concept of apathy at all and few said they had apathetic traits. A common consensus among visitors was that it was easier to be apathetic and easier to be empathetic to people similar to yourself; culturally, linguistically and situationally. The subject of refugees came up on a number of occasions, one person noting how his wife began to lock their front gate after the influx of refugees came to Munich, another stated “refugees are fine, as long as they’re kept far away from me!”. Such examples revealed situations of known and unknown bias held by visitors and the bike itself was particularly affective in revealing contradictions between people’s views of themselves and their opinions of others. 

The function of the bike is consistent with themes in Geoffroy’s work. The underlying message is one that forces participants to tackle the idea that they could be – unwittingly or purposely without care – capable of damage. Damaging the earth, creating a hostile environment for others, allowing harm to go on without consequence; all of these things can be results of people’s unmotivated acts. Most people believe they are as good as their intentions but do not follow through in their output. The bike is similar conceptually to John Delay, a Facebook personality created by Geoffroy of a man who is overcome with guilt and depression due to the state of the world and his part in upholding a structure that continues to create damage. The bike is a question on existence: do I create more harm than good? What is my responsibility in the state of the world? The force of wind produced while cycling on the machine correlates to the idea of an effect produced by effort. Visitors causing this wind can contemplate what kind of energy they want to put out in the world. If the papillon can show them how their actions are stronger than they think in a hopeful manner, the bike warns of the downside of this realisation.

Text by Elena Hansen