Artist, goldfish circle roundabout for hours |

Artist, goldfish circle roundabout for hours

Matt Zalaznick

It took Aspen conceptual artist Rick Magnuson five hours Wednesday afternoon to express his vision. He drove nonstop around the Vail’s main roundabout from noon until about 5 p.m. with a camera and a bowl of goldfish mounted on the dashboard of his rented truck.

“Maybe he’s a big proponent for roundabouts and he was trying to document that you can drive a large truck through them with a bowl of goldfish on your dash,” Vail police Sgt. Steve Erickson says.

Erickson says he pulled the man over twice to find out why he was circling the roundabout.

“He claimed he was an artist. He said he was creating art,” Erickson says. “We asked him to stop doing it, because he was causing concern, but he told us he was going to drive the roundabout until he felt like he couldn’t do it anymore. And that’s what he did.”

Magnuson, a community safety officer in Aspen, was allowed to continue his peculiar trip because he didn’t break any traffic laws or pose a safety threat, says Matt Mire, Vail’s town attorney.

“He was shooting some kind of film so he should have come in to get a permit to let us know what he was doing,” Mire says. “If we felt he was creating a safety hazard, we informed him we’d make him leave or if there was any traffic violation, we would cite him.

“But we kept a close eye on him,” Mire adds.

Magnuson and his goldfish have done the same in Aspen. Last summer, he spent seven hours driving a 24-foot truck around an Aspen roundabout. During the approximately 1,150 laps, Magnuson filmed the scenery through a fishbowl mounted on his dashboard.

Magnuson’s 10-minute film, “Swim,” will be playing on GrassRoots Community TV in Aspen through December as part of the 2002 Aspen Valley Biennial.

The exhibition’s press release calls Magnuson’s film a “fascinating experiment in community performance art.” It also says Magnuson does not assign purpose to his video work and that he makes art for the “sake of art.”

Erickson says drivers sometimes take a few extra trips around the roundabouts – particularly, around Christmas, when people do a few additional laps to look at the Christmas lights in the trees.

“This is one of the stranger calls I’ve seen,” says Erickson, who has been a police officer in the valley for 18 years.

Assuming Magnuson was going the speed limit – 25 mph – he travelled approximately 125 miles during his rotations in Vail. That’s about the distance from Gypsum to Denver.

Erickson says he watched the Magnuson circle for about a half-an-hour.

“He stayed on the inside lane and drove perfectly for that time,” he says.

But driving around and around the roundabouts is strongly discouraged, Erickson says. “Odds are that if somebody drives that circle long enough they’re going to have an accident, whether it’s their fault or not,” Erickson says.

And future circumnavigators risk getting a ticket and even having their cars towed, Erickson warns.

“Had we come to conclusion he was creating a clear and present hazard, we would have dealt with him in a different manner and will in the future,” Erickson says.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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