One of the reasons Ryan C. Doyle loves Detroit is the garbage. He uses scrap metal and other odds and ends from the city recycling plant to build sculptures, art cars, and experiences that people can interact with. “A lot of them have flamethrowers or jets," Doyle tells The Creators Project in an interview for our new show, Culture Beat. "I often take references from the military world and try to put a positive spin on them by bringing them to the art world.”
He's not exagerrating: one "Detroitus" sculpture, The Regurgitator, incorporates a working pulse jet. The freedom to use exotic materials like these is another reason he prefers the Motor City to his native New York. When he first arrived, he was scavenging for materials at the dump when he was confronted by police. “They were like, What the hell is going on here?" Doyle recalls before the opening of his show at Los Angeles' Superchief Gallery, Triptych: Trippy Threesome, which he shared with his alter egos, VR artist Lyon Doyer and evil illustrator Darth Lloyder. "I was like, ‘We’re making a sculpture.’ And they were like, ‘Oh, cool. Have fun.’ [Whereas in] New York the first time I turned on a pulse jet the police showed up—which is probably happening tonight.”
The SoCal metropolis is less friendly to things that sound like explosions than Doyle's current home base. It was at the gallery opening that we saw The Regurgitator in action. "The Regurgitator is a pulse jet-powered spinning centrifuge that you ride in," Doyle explains. "As you spin around it literally pulls the contents of your stomach out using g-force and sends them into the crowd in a flying ring of vomit while you’re doing 7-10 g's and starting to go unconscious.” In an interview in 2010, Doyle told us that around 35% of people ride until they throw up.
If you think that sounds dangerous, you'd be right! "I have made it go too fast, and it has made people’s eyes bleed," the artist continues, bearded face alight. "Making art that makes people’s eye bleed is a really intense thing that I don’t think a lot of other artists have achieved.”
That danger is important to the ethos of The Regurgitator, according to Doyle. "The Regurgitator is an interactive sculpture that makes people afraid. Then I make people overcome that fear. We live in a society that thrives off of fear. For people to come up and be terrified of this bomb / jet combo that is spinning people around with tons of fire, for them to overcome that and trust me... Everyone when they’re done feels it’s such an empowering thing.”
Doyle first made The Regurgitator ten years ago, but he says the sculpture has taken on new meaning for him since then. "The way it spins around in a circle is meant to talk about how the art world is full of echoes. A lot of artists research the former generation, and a lot of them blatantly steal someone else’s idea and redo it, and I hated that as a kid. But after a lot of conversation, and after building this piece, I came to the idea that it’s more of an echo through the art world. Somebody said something really important and somebody else is just trying to say something similar.” It might seem like a roundabout way of talking about the cyclical nature of the art world, but that hardly matters when your eyes are bleeding and your friends are covered in your puke.
Learn more about Doyle, his process, and how he tricks out cars in the first episode of our Culture Beat series, which you can watch below.