It’s incredible to consider it was a week ago today that the 7th annual Maker Faire Bay Area opened its floodgates and thousands upon thousands of people became “hyper-inspired”. We all have our favorite moments and project. Mine came the afternoon after the faire, when the breakdown was in full-swing and the grounds were only populated with the core crew and heavy machinery. The Flux Foundation – not to be confused with other Flux-es – who made the BrollyFlock, a 35′ tall 30′ diameter sculpture populated with 55 umbrellas (20 made of steel of which 9 shoot fire; and 35 with an elaborate Arduino-controlled LED lighting system), gave me perhaps the best memorabilia ever: a postcard covered in kisses from each of their awesome crew!
Scroll down below to see the sculpture being installed, and finally for it in action at twilight. And here’s what it looked like during the day surrounded by peoples!
I took a bus there and back the same day – totally exhausting and totally worth it. Exiting Marc Penn Station I huffed it down St. Paul’s and made my way to the harbor where I caught a late-morning performance by Batalá, a samba-inspired all-female percussion band. Awesome. Along came the Kinetic Sculptures and I had no idea it doubled as a bike parade for the public too – hundreds of art bikes and regular riders went all along the north harbor to Catton Park (I missed the early morning festivities at Federal Hill, I was on a bus at 6am!). There the sculptures are charged into the water, and have to do a single lap around a 50′ dock – that’s tougher than it sounds! Then they emerge, and continue parading through the city to another park where they’re charged through beds of sand and mud, and must endure yet another leg back to Federal Hill. A multi-multi-hour parade through a city with tons of civic pride, economies of scale (as I call them), and of course great people:
Lots of people were costumed up.
Caption This! A giant rat-bike-boat in the harbor.
Lots of bike mods and themed bike crews.
Big elephant with pontoons.
Not everything floats. This big bike is big-n-heavy.
The wheels are 12 foot diameter.
the Machine, being paddled and pedal-powered.
Eiffel Tower made from corks, it floats just in case.
I hiked the whole day, to get a sense of the scale of the city and its environments. I’ll definitely be back – I need to visit the AVA Museum among other sites – and don’t necessarily recommend everyone walks like I did (I’ll do it again, but it’s not for everyone) but highly recommend you mark your calendars for next year!
Currently sitting in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan, have been here since 6am assisting Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese – two Brooklyn-based artists – to realize their public installation, Main Street Meltdown.
Even though the available WiFi is sweet I don’t have much time to write. So I’ll just post some quick images and captions so I can get back to taking more images. I’ll write up a more comprehensive post laters.
around 7am, the tables are setup which will become the plinth for the 1600 lbs. of ice sculpture that will get loaded on top.
Marshall Reese, planning the next move.
Dressing the table.
preparing the ice trays
master ice sculptor Okamoto from Long Island City, preparing the base.
Entire work made from scrap wood – additional hardware used include brad wire nails, angle bracket, screws and finishing washers. Sculpture on top is scrap dowel rod, covered with flock grass and finished with brad wire nails and staples.
scrap wood sculpture #1 – one of many, many to come (yay for working indoors during the winter!)
In mid-November I received a postcard in the mail. I immediately recognized it as being from my friend Jason Eisner, for a show that he was telling me about two months back. I opened the envelope only to realize that the opening was the weekend that just passed. I missed receiving the postcard on time because of the way in which our house mail system operates, so I became internally frustrated, because I would have loved to have attended the opening, which was laced with several performances.
But sometimes, things are somehow for the best.
I could not attend the following two weekends (the gallery is only open on Saturday and Sunday) because of Thanksgiving (closed) and prior engagements, so I set aside 2 December, a Sunday, to parade my way to this new-to-me space, the English Kills Art Gallery.
Living in Queens can be frustrating, because Brooklyn is right there – right there! I have to take three trains: the 7 (from 40 St/Lowery St) to the G (transfer at Court Square) to the L (transfer at Metropolitan) to Morgan Avenue, to arrive in Bushwick, an area technically only three neighborhoods away (but by other measurements worlds apart). That’s one train per neighborhood! Meanwhile the next decade-plus will see likely a billion dollars poured into constructing a new subway in Manhattan so that Upper East Side bougies don’t have to walk two blocks west to crowd themselves onto the 4/5/6. But WHATEVER! I exit at Morgan Avenue only to find a map for “Open Spaces“, a one-day event promoting artists and galleries in the Bushwick area – everything would be open! Sweet!
My agenda was set: first to English Kills, then just stroll and look, at my leisure.
Billed a ‘double solo show’, Jason and Brent Owens each got one of the two cavity spaces that constitute the English Kills space. Even before entering though, you knew you would be entering an alternative space, as each artist had made exterior signage (above image) to promote entry. Ahead – Knucklehead Blues!
(install by Brent Owens)
Both artists have similar but separate approaches: each obviously have a fondness for wood, drilling into it, chopping it up, hacking it as it were. Transforming it to their will. Owens additionally relies on a specific vernacular which he imposes into the grain, and one can leap from the language he uses to imagined narratives about his upbringing: LIKE THE PATH BEATEN BY THE SWINGING SACK OF FATHER TIME. One can only guess he’s from the South!
The Taxpayer, by Brent Owens, a homebrew-looking machine with multiple buckets, containers, modified Anheuser-Busch keg, propane tank. Where’s the moonshine bruh?
Eisner activated his space with both static works (as in framed, none pictured here though) and site-specific installation and sculpture. One or two of the works you got the impression were not only built & installed on-site, but perhaps not even conceived of until the artist was present in the space: wood blobs taking over the architecture or wood shoes hanging from conduit, or various carts promoting their… is that a billboard or a landscape?
The main work in the space was a cart, with inoperable wheels and a suggestive tow hitch, its bed stuffed with slats of foamcore to hold stiff what appeared to be a type of billboard structure depicting a rolling, segmented, landscape. An open cavity in the billboard-landscape revealed hidden works and spaces beyond: power towers, forest stubs, and a plastic work. Originally seen as obtrusive, the viewer is meant to penetrate the landscape in order to find these hidden messages and metaphors.
The delight of the day though was the Open Spaces event, and simply having the time to walk around and enjoy viewing random spaces, art and artists in their spaces. Other notable stumbled-upon spaces included Pocket Utopia, where artist Libby Hartle sat in residence, conversing with punters and carving short wood sticks out of re-constituted paper pulp.
All my cynicisms about this area of Brooklyn aside, it is obvious that some fantastic new spaces are cropping up and are being operated by people that obviously have an investment in their work and the artists they support. Our fair city’s first snow of the season fell this morning, but that didn’t stop me from trekking (again, THREE trains!) there to engage the area, and it shouldn’t stop you either! The Arts in Bushwick non-profit have simplified the task with an accessible map of the area’s galleries and studio complexes.