Where to Next for the Chariot Wars?

Chariot Wars
Where to Next for the Chariot Wars?

One of Portland, Oregon’s most frequented sites for new graffiti and fresh street art is facing the bulldozer.

The hollowed-out shell of a building that once housed electrical parts-supplier Taylor Electric at 3rd and Clay in the Southeast Industrial District, is considered a haven for streets artists.

Chariot Wars at Taylor Electric

Taylor Electric photo Justin Houk via flickr

That’s in part because Portland has a particularly stringent, zero-tolerance policy on graffiti on outside building walls, making Taylor Electric one of the few places for ambitious street artists to ply their craft.

 

Now the building shell will be demolished to make way for office and living spaces.

In addition to losing a visual landmark, the loss of Taylor Electric means one less possible venue for the annual Ben Hurt Chariot Wars. Organized by the Zoobombers (a group of dedicated urban cyclist-racer-activists), the Chariot Wars happen each year, usually in winter’s worst wet weather.

If you’ve never experienced the Chariot Wars, it is an urban spectacle that somewhat defies convention and description. Each participant team builds a bicycle plus ‘chariot’, gets armed with DIY body armor, and goes out into the field – usually an abandoned lot – to battle other chariots to the end.

Watch two great videos of the Chariot Wars in action here and here.

Chariot Wars

Photo bjamin via flickr.

 The end is when just one bike+chariot is left manned and upright. It’s kind of a bicycle version of the kid’s game King of the Hill, or as the Zoobombers call it–a Ben Hurt event.

Helmets are encouraged in the Chariot Wars.

With Nerf bats, fishing nets, old stuffed animals and a variety of other bizarre and non-lethal weapons, the bike+chariots battle it out in an “only in Portland,” chaotic display.

Chariot Wars

Still from our 2014 Chariot Wars video on YouTube.

The location for each year’s Chariot Wars is kept in strict confidence until the day’s event.

With the loss of Taylor Electric’s burned-out shell of a building, perfect for mock urban conflagrations, there’s one less available site for 2015’s Chariot Wars, as well as one less place where the city’s secret artists can make their statements.

Both, however, will likely survive.

(Lead photo of Taylor Electric courtesy Brandon Seifert via flickr.)

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