LeBlond reveals kinetic contraptions

All of Philippe LeBlond's sculptures on display at Arts Underground move. Some have moving parts, while others move back and forth or are remote-controlled.

All of Philippe LeBlond’s sculptures on display at Arts Underground move.

Some have moving parts, while others move back and forth or are remote-controlled. They are “studies in motion,” said the artist, whose educational background is in physics and mechanics.

The dozen contraptions are made from recycled materials like old appliances, bicycle wheels or toys he picked up at the Free Store.

For the title piece, LeBlond turned an old breadmaker into a cross between a miner’s workshop and a dredge, complete with a light and motor inside and chimney on top. Pictures of Yukon icons including Pierre Berton, the Chilkoot Trail and a salmon are attached to an arm, rotate on a bicycle chain and move up and down.

The show, which opened on Friday, is called Bare Creek. It’s title was inspired by LeBlond’s time with the Art Gate Project in July. Held at Bear Creek, the event was a partnership between Parks Canada and the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. Artists collected material to create pieces inspired by the area and its Gold Rush history.

Two pieces seem more like games than artwork.

For both, players use remote controls to move balls around different surfaces. At Antlerball, which LeBlond calls his “mechanical X-Box,” participants use controllers to move a moose antler around. The goal is to have a ball travel from the bottom corner of the antler to the top. Children and adults alike have already tested out this piece, which LeBlond has had on display at Whitehorse’s farmers’ market. He hasn’t mastered it himself yet, but has come fairly close.

“There’s a lot of potential in this,” he said, noting he may try to repeat the concept with other animals’ antlers, like caribou.

Antlerball isn’t the only piece with a playful component. Both Mcnightmare and Rat’s Race incorporate children’s toys. In the first, a Barbie-type doll shakes and bangs against a steel dome while a figurine of Ronald McDonald moves up and down on a spring behind her, as if he’s floating above her in her dream.

In Rat’s Race, various toys, including Ariel the Little Mermaid, Sonic the Hedgehog and Brother and Sister Bear from The Bernstein Bear series rotate around a turntable with a figure of E.T. in the middle.


A god-like figure stands above them, dangling a Star of David and other symbols on a string. Nearby, a wizard holds an American bill.

The piece is full of “plastic people in an artificial world,” said LeBlond.

“You’ve got your financial wizards, you’ve got your god-figure, you’ve got your dog pissing on a post because he doesn’t give a shit, excuse my language. You’ve got E.T. He’s trying to get out of there. And then you’ve got the rat race going on all around him.”

These works also let LeBlond explore new artistic territory. “I’ve been kind of typecast as a bike-part-artist,” said the former bicycle mechanic and brains behind the Purple Bike project. “But not all my stuff is made up of bikes.”

He likes Mcnightmare because it combines social criticism and humour. He finds Ronald McDonald’s status as a food icon somewhat disturbing, and there’s the obvious concerns about what Barbie teaches young girls about body image.

Still, he prefers for viewers

to draw their own conclusions, he said.

For him, inspiration comes from watching the world around him.

“I see a movement, and I think, ‘What can I do with that movement?’”

LeBlond doesn’t draw. He only makes sketches when he runs into geometrical problems with his sculptures. It’s hard to describe the process to others, he said. It’s similar to giving people advice about mechanics.

“I tell them to look at the action of a piece of machinery or something that works when you’re trying to deal with it. … Look at the action. Look at what it’s supposed to do, and how it goes about doing that. … Just look.”

There will be more of LeBlond’s work to view in coming weeks. This show runs until Sept. 29. Pieces cost between $300 to $1,800.

Next month, LeBlond has a show opening at Baked Cafe. It will include some pieces from Bare Creek, as well as smaller items like ravens and clocks.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at