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Mykalle Bielinski aims to challenge modern cycles of exploitative economics with her new show, Warm Up

By Andrew “Boots” Hardy
SFIAF Editor


Mykalle Bielinski is on a mission to change the world.

Or, if not the world itself, then at least the way we look at it.

She doesn’t look old enough to have accumulated 15 years’ experience in theater, but nonetheless, the Canadian musician and performer has a number of stage productions under her belt, including her newest, Warm Up, coming to the San Francisco International Arts Festival the first week of May.

Bielinski’s shows are often steeped in spiritual symbolism, mythological metaphor, and provocative political imagery — and Warm Up is no exception. The bicycle-centric performance is a powerful declaration, a manifesto intended to provoke greater awareness of human interdependence and interaction with nature.

“We kind of forgot that everything around us comes from nature,” she said. “Wood, water, steel, electricity, all of these are things that we extract from nature, that we are dependent upon. I wanted to create a show where I could be independent from those things.”

Bielinski loves the bicycle as a form of transportation. But her performance transforms her bike — in tandem with a dynamo and a lithium battery — into a primitive energy production-and-storage unit that she uses to power the entire show.

“The bike is symbolic,” she explains. “It’s a symbol of our urge to produce, the capitalistic way of thinking that we have to go faster, and have more and more. That’s the point: Where does it all stop?”

Warm Up has three components, combining athleticism with song and stage performance.

First, the kinetics: Bielinski hits the pedals, pumping the energy produced by her body through her legs, through the bicycle, converting it into electricity with the dynamo, and storing it in the battery.

Next, she uses that energy, powering the lights, microphone, and sound system that any stage performance depends upon.  She feeds upon it, narrating as the battery’s stored energy runs low, and as she builds a sort of relationship with the audience.

Eventually, of course, the well runs dry, and it is time for Bielinski to mount up and literally repeat the cycle over again — and over again — until she eventually becomes exhausted and disassembles the machine that she herself created. 

Then, from the parts, she builds anew, a sculpture born of fresh perspective like the mythological phoenix, rising from the ashes of what was.

Bielinski envisions a post-capitalism world, where humanity and nature coexist in harmony. She hopes to urge audiences to consider the concepts behind the de-growth movement, an ideology that is rapidly gaining momentum in the West.

Proponents of de-growth point to the destabilization of natural ecosystems across the globe, decreased availability of natural resources, and the unsustainable explosion of first-world consumption — at the expense of third world populations — since the industrial revolution.

We must choose, Bielinski insists, to produce significantly less as a society — to mine less, to extract less, to work less — and to accept that endless economic growth is simply not possible, and that human beings must collectively, intentionally, and drastically reduce our consumption.

To illustrate this her show follows a process that mirrors the twin, parallel systems of American capitalism and consumerism: Making the money, banking the money, spending the money, and then having to go back out and make more, day after day, month after month, year after year, until our bodies eventually wear out.

The symbolism is multi-layered, as Bielinski addresses the different cycles: Economics, user-ism, and even life itself.

“I talk a lot about psychology, about politics, and also our greed. In the West, we are used to consuming that much energy and resources. We need to focus on new values, new ways of coming together without consuming so much.”

It’s a tall order. According to the United States Census Bureau, the earth’s population had already crested 8 billion people as of January 1. The U.S. is the world’s third most populous nation, after China and India, each with about 1.4 billion people.

But with her show, Bielinski is doing her part. Her purpose is not to preach, but to inspire people to come to their own conclusions, to make their own decisions to change.

“I’m kind of inventing new ways of seeing the world, and working with resources and electricity and parts of nature, and exploring ways to reconnect in a more respectful, less exploitative way.

“How can we befriend nature and learn from it,” she asks, “and maybe give something back, instead of just taking.”

San Francisco International Arts Festival
Phone Number: 415-399-9554 | Email: [email protected]
1222 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94109



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