Accessibility 2011: Escape
Frank McCauley, The Sumter County Gallery of Art
Accessibility 2011: Escape was Sumter’s 12th exhibition of downtown art installations. This group exhibit bridged the gap between local art institutions and communities, inspired creativity through educational programs and workshops, fostered literacy of the arts through interaction, and reinforced a sense of community. A reoccurring project, Accessibility traditionally focuses on site specific installations where an artist responds to a certain aspect of a building, and the landscape or community surrounding it. Installations run the gamut from monumental sculptural forms such as Jarod Charzewski’s massive landscape constructed from recycled clothing, to more ephemeral video works projected onto buildings via a portable self-powered projection unit. Accessibility 2011: Escape was located in downtown Sumter, SC on Main Street in and around local businesses, alley ways, unoccupied buildings, and other “public” spaces. The event took place in November of 2011.
Before I Die
New Orleans, LA
Before I Die is an interactive, public art project that invites people to share their dreams in public space. The Black Rock Arts Foundation grant in 2011 funded the initial version of this project by artist Candy Chang. Abandoned properties in New Orleans were transformed into chalkboards with grids that say, “Before I die I want to _______.” Passersby could use chalk to write on the wall and remember what is important to them in life. This project has since grown and expanded to other cities. Before I Die transforms neglected spaces into constructive ones where we can learn the hopes and aspirations of the people around us.
The Boom Parade was a Ghetto Art-Vehicle parade and contest. All entries made sound or music. At-risk youth and adults from across the Bayview Hunters Point community built art cars, scooters, and bicycles, and entered their vehicles in the parade and competition.
In October of 2011, a loud sound was heard in the ghetto. But this time, it was not the sound of gunshots – it was the sound of the Annual Mobile Boombox Parade! A parade of art cars, art bicycles, art motorcycles, art scooters, and art skateboards weaved it’s way through the most economically and socially depressed neighborhoods of Bayview Hunters Point. All vehicles were built and driven by members of the local community, and each vehicle produced sound or music. For example, an art go-cart might of had a drum machine built into the steering wheel. An art bicycle could of displayed an array of bicycle horns, enabling the rider to play an entire musical composition. An art flatbed truck could of carried a live rapper, chanting his rhymes to the rhythms generated by the wheels of the truck.
The boombox is an icon of Black American culture, which is part of the inspiration for this project. The community was invited to build mobile music amplification projects for the parade. Inventors and engineers from Bay Area high tech industries were invited to mentor BVHP residents, and a special effort was made to encourage the participation of youth living in public housing. Projects could be built in schools, community centers, and churches. Under the BOOM Parade banner, contestants formed a parade which wound its way down the streets of Bayview Hunters Point, particularly public housing projects, playing VERY LOUD.
Cape Cod Art Association Student Show – Interactive Art Award
Lee Hill, Cape Cod Art Association Beginnings Program
Through their Beginnings program, The Cape Cod Art Association awards cash prizes to high school students from nine schools for artistic achievement. In 2011, with the funding of a Black Rock Arts Foundation grant, Beginnings added an Interactive Art category. Students were introduced to the history of, concepts of and approaches of creating interactive works of art, and were challenged to create works of their own based on their new understanding of this exciting genre.
Nova Jiang, Eyebeam
The Creatomatic project is a series of public workshops revolving around a machine designed to help people come up with inventions. The Creatomatic machine resembles a slot machine, but instead of matching symbols, it randomly matches diagrams of two everyday objects from a selection of thousands. A participant is prompted to quickly invent a new object based on the function, appearance or physical characteristic of the two objects shown. These inventions may be practical, poetic or operate purely within the realm of science fiction. For example, a clock and a beach ball might inspire the participant to invent a clock that bounces. Participants draw and describe their best inventions on “Creatomatic patent certificates,” which are then scanned and uploaded into a database.
Under the guidance of workshop staff, participants build a basic prototype of their inventions. These workshops also introduce basic fabrication and electronics skills and other skills participants need to realize their inventions. A selection of these prototypes and renderings of some the more unbuildable inventions are exhibited.
The Black Rock Arts Foundation helped fund some of the initial workshops and exhibits of The Creatomatic machine in 2011.
Fountains was the working title of a multi-media public art project for Dallas County in 3 parts: a video sculpture/monument, curated public programs, and an interactive website.
The Monument: A working public water fountain at the Dallas County Records Building triggered a projection of digitally-altered newsreel footage of 1960s civil rights protests under the remains of a Jim Crow “White Only” sign that was rediscovered in 2003. Visitors to the building unknowingly initiated this meditation on history, heroism, civic duty and social change as they attempted to drink from the fountain. Upon activation, the water flow was suspended for the duration of a 15-second video, allowing one to drink only after it ended.
The monument at first glance appeared to be a modern-day working drinking fountain on the first floor of the Dallas County Records Building. However, as one went to take a drink from the fountain, it became clear that this object is something else entirely. Instead of the activation of a water flow, a flow of light and sound was activated in the form of digital video. A projector or LCD screen was embedded in the drinking fountain, hidden behind a two way mirror—only becoming visible upon initiation of the push-bar mechanism on the fountain. Each actuation randomly revealed one of ten potential fifteen-second videos composed of recontextualized and abstracted newsreel footage.
Public Programs/Educational Workshop: With the unveiling of the monument, a series of free public programs ran in collaboration with local partners. “Brown bag” lunches on-site at the Records Building, targeted towards visitors and employees, aimed to reactivate the civic space by providing a platform for dialogical exchange. Public programs off-site, at arts/humanities and community centers, corresponded with strategic dates in national and international history to examine multi-national/ethnic movements and struggles for human rights and their modern implications. A youth-centric workshop that looked at the intersection of contemporary art, politics, and education was developed and made available to an existing network of local schools and creative community institutions. The workshop put forth objectives that served to envision how a work of art could facilitate young people’s education, participation in their community, and make possible their input into the forces that affect their everyday lives as young citizens.
Interactive Website: To extend the idea of civic engagement and meditation on collective memory present at the physical site, a new website was launched. This virtual space served as a bridge from a local to an international audience who wished to join the discussion, archiving other sites of similar discovery and contested public memory.
The Ghana Thinktank
John Ewing, Carmen Montoya and Christopher Robbins
Roxbury, MA, and international locations.
The Ghana Thinktank is developing the First World. Ghana Thinktank is a worldwide network of think tanks creating strategies to resolve local problems in the “developed” world. The network is composed of people from all walks of life and levels of expertise and began with groups in Ghana, Cuba and El Salvador. It has since expanded to include Serbia, Mexico, Ethiopia, Iran, and a group of incarcerated girls in the U.S. prison system.
These think tanks analyze First World problems and propose solutions, which are enacted in the community where the problems originated – whether those solutions seem impractical or brilliant. The success or failure of the solutions is documented and sent back to the think tanks, initiating another round of dialogue and action. For exhibitions, The Ghana ThinkTank manifests as elaborate installations that document the entire process and involve audience participants in each step. The ThinkTank operated out of a roving trailer on the grounds of the Queens Museum in late spring and summer of 2011.
Nina Nichols, The Black Forest Fancies
New Orleans, LA
Lafcadio’s Revenge manifested as a sculpture of an above ground submarine, constructed from reclaimed materials and found objects, all excavated from New Orleans’s ‘underworld’. New Orleans’ water table had the remarkable capability of extracting buried objects, bringing them close to the ground’s surface. Excavations reveal anything from 18th century jewel scales, to alligator skeletons, to massive pieces of architecture and ironwork. Lafcadio’s Revenge followed in the footsteps of Lafcadio Hearn, great New Orleans ethnographer and an inventor of the city’s mysterious history.
This 8′x12′ submarine sculpture was a collaboration between New Orleans artist Nina Nichols and Dana Sherwood. Constructed of wood and ironwork tube, the submarine is mounted on an old French Quarter carriage chassis, similar to the stagecoach sculpture the artists constructed at the Socrates Sculpture Park in June of 2009 (shown above).
The exterior of the wagon was a solid curved form, resembling a submarine in every way, but comprised purely of salvaged wood and iron of varying colors and from many eras. A ladder gripped the side and led to the top entry hatch. The interior of the submarine was a museum of small, kinetic works of art made in collaboration with Tessa Farmer. This interior environment was designed to create the impression of being submerged deep beneath the soil, observing the secret life of the discarded artifacts under the earth. The art of Lafcadio’s Revenge put excavated objects in conversation with fantasy and local legend, telling stories of the city through the reanimation of forgotten relics.
In collaboration with the Community Garden’s Project, the Lafcadio’s Revenge worked with school groups to ‘excavate’ unused lots of land, both unearthing these buried treasures and preparing the soil for gardening. The project aimed to transform seven lots into community gardens.
Lafcadio’s Revenge debuted at the Prospect 2 Biennial in October of 2011.
Paris, France, and international locations.
The Mobule was a traveling video sculpture that passed on recorded ‘messages of love’ from one city’s citizens to those of the next. This eight-foot balloon appeared at night in public streets. Illuminated from within, it displayed a video projection of a large eye. The eye searched and focused on passers by, selecting individuals and pursuing them. Once in proximity to the individual, a recorded message from another individual, from the previous city of the tour, appeared in the eye. Once the individual received the message, he or she was invited to wear the ‘space helmet’ that controls the eye. The mystery of how the Mobule operates was revealed, and the individual could control its next interaction. Participants were also then invited to leave a video message for the next city’s residents.
The Mobule was scheduled to tour Paris, Barcelona, London, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami in the summer of 2011. Visit the project’s website for more details.
Skate Stump was a large concrete sculpture designed for skateboarders to ride. It depicted two old-growth tree stumps. Nestled between the stumps was a functioning rain garden. The sculpture brought life to a previously unused area of the existing Brooklyn Skate Spot in Portland, Oregon.
The larger concrete stump measured four feet high, twenty feet diameter at the base, and five feet across the apex. The adjacent smaller stump measured three feet wide and high. The rain garden sinuously snaked between the stumps and features native grasses. The armature was constructed of recycled concrete, fill dirt, hog wire and rebar.
Growth rings were etched into the top of the concrete stumps, inspired by that of actual 500 year old trees. The sides of the stumps were stamped with a hand-made stamp molded from western hemlock bark. Skateboarding over the growth rings created a vibration that is both felt through the board and audible to observers. The subtle rhythmic sounds that each skater created were unique, as each skater exhibited an inherently original performance. An accompanying educational plaque provided context for the piece by providing a brief history of the Northwest’s old-growth forests and suggestions for how to participate in their protection, as well as instructions on rain garden construction.
Maia Anthea Marinelli
Wind Playground was a site-specific project designed for Governor’s Island as part of the Figment festival’s sculpture garden. The Black Rock Arts Foundation funded the installation’s initial construction in 2011, however the project is ongoing.
Using boat, windsurfing and kite sail design techniques, Wind Playground is designed to dance and move in the wind. The sculpture is a surreal, multicolored environment of layered sails. Its interior is a maze of funnel-like tunnels, inviting people to crawl, play or meditate in their surroundings while absorbing a new understanding of wind phenomena such as wind acceleration, turbulence, updraft and wind twisters. Wind Playground is built using new and refurbished sail-textile/film and riggings (such battens, masts, booms, ropes, pulleys.)
To see photos of the final piece, and find updates on the project visit: www.windplayground.com