A Glorious Mixture of Art and Science: The Kinetic Sculpture Race, Grand Championship

"...adults having fun so that children will desire to grow older.”  (Hobart Brown, founder of kinetic sculpture racing)

If kinetic sculpture is where art and science play, then kinetic sculpture races are art in motion as people complete a racecourse on machines that they design and build. The machines must be people-powered (not even a battery can be used), and they must be able to navigate sand, water, mud, hills, and roads. It's a combination of the practical and fantastical, with a big helping of general weirdness (meant in the best possible way). Sculptures ranging from fire-breathing dragons to 15-foot pink poodles to ships filled with pirates make their way through the course. The granddaddy of kinetic sculpture races is the Grand Championship—a three-day marathon event that takes place over Memorial Day weekend in Humboldt County, California. Begun 45 years ago, it is now the biggest single event in Humboldt County, comprising seven events in five different towns along a 42-mile course and drawing thousands of spectators each year. 

It's hard to image a better guide for a behind-the-scenes look at this human-powered art race than Katie Texas. She is passionate about kinetic sculpture racing. She has competed in the Grand Championship over the years, winning several awards including her ACE pilot wings. In 2008, she was awarded the title of Rutabaga Queen at the Kinetic Grand Championship (it's a lifelong title; once a queen, always a queen). Currently she serves the Kinetic Universe as president of the board of directors. Here's Queen Texas on the fun, challenges, and glory to be had at this intersection of art and science.

All photographs are from the 2013 Grand Championship, used courtesy of Tina Kerrigan Photography.  You can find the complete 2013 album as well as albums from previous years' championships at Kinetic Universe.

Excerpt from "Tilly's Punctured Romancer" by Ergo Phizmiz from his album, Strange Things, used courtesy of Creative Commons and found on WFMU's Free Music Archive.

kinetic-race-final.mp3

Audio Tabs