Young artist exhibits "radiovka" cycling helmets

The "radiovka" beret, known for its little antenna-like tassel on top may not exactly be the height of fashion but the beret does have a long tradition in the Bohemian and Moravian countryside, especially among the older generation. Though most popular in the '60s or '70s, you're still likely to see the beret worn by some even today. Ondrej Stanek, a young Czech artist now exhibiting in Brno, decided to use the "radiovka" for inspiration in a new art installation. Namely, he has developed a series of cycling helmets in the classic "radiovka" shape.

Like in many places, sports helmets are required in the Czech Republic when cycling on roads and are a pretty smart idea even off. And, luckily there is no limit from designs to choose from. Or is there? Ondrej Stanek - a student of sculpture studying in Brno - found it impossible to imagine seniors, for example, making us of the latest space-age helmets. Somehow, the picture didn't fit. Instead, he took inspiration from an old staple of the Czech countryside, the "radiovka", and designed helmets for seniors in the shape of the famous beret. Already, his pieces have gotten a fair amount of press.

"Yes, I was surprised by how much attention the helmets got, and I'm not sorry, just the opposite. I think it was very positive. I'm from a smaller town myself and I've known the 'radiovka' since childhood, from those surroundings. It was typical for seniors when I was a kid, although I guess by now that may have changed."

Currently on display in Brno are a number of Stanek's variations on the "radiovaka": prototypes with names like Shark, Woodsman, and Speed, all for different users, that is fisherman, forestry dept. workers, and seniors. As works of art the prototypes imitate professionally manufactured helmets' glossy and aerodynamic shells to a "t", complete with straps for better fit and vents for better ventilation. For a while, there was even discussion of the helmets being professionally produced. But, it is clear that that is more than a little unlikely.

"I don't think they will be. At first, I needed to borrow straps and buckles for my designs so I contacted a helmet company just starting out, saying I was looking to design a helmet. But, I didn't tell them what I was really up to: when they saw photographs of the works they were a bit taken aback. At first, they looked like they might be interested but not anymore."

In any case, the "radiovka" helmets probably work better as conceptual works than they ever would as practical equipment. As a work of sculpture, the helmets elevate with a touch of humour and irony a long outdated, shall we say "fashion accessory". It's probably better the pieces remain just sculpture after all. In the end, what self-respecting cyclists would really want to admit to flipping over the handlebars with nothing on their heads but a plastic beret?