Flux/S took over an open urban space at Strijp-S in Eindoven that looks otherwise unappealing to do some pretty fantastic activities. Let’s see, there’s an open symphony (everyone brings their instrument and starts playing), hula hooping, twister, and other play date favorites.
This is the third edition of the arts festival and they chose this spot in response to recent developments. This reminds me of similar festivals in New York that I’ve talked about in recent posts on psychogeography, except this festival has a unifying principle. It is a commentary on the meaning of public space in our cities, and one of their main intentions is to start a dialogue. I, for one, have had many philosophical arguments about urban design while twisting myself into a knot on a large dotted mat. But seriously, I get it. I think the intentions behind this festival are strong, and reminiscent of the original political and social rebellion that was the intention of the Situationist International and Fluxus movements. Artbomb, above, is a good example of their quietly aggressive protest, and the festival itself feels like a collective demonstration by visitors and residents of Eindoven who choose to participate.
How can we rethink our city environment, and how can art create an entirely new experience? One of the answers that I’m exploring in my work is – how can we create an entirely new experience with what is already there? Whether people themselves form the artwork, or their stories, or offering a new lens through which to see the city.
Artist Richard Galpin installed Viewing Station on the High Line in May, and I was in the middle of a project in Times Square to frame certain elements in the environment to “quiet” the experience and to meditate on your surroundings, so I was blown away by this. He takes the geometry from separating layers of photographic prints to create the abstract cut-outs. The actual view that Viewing Station frames is an interesting choice – let’s just say it’s only interesting through a kaleidoscopic lens like this. The power of this installation to disconnect the viewer from everyday reality and see architecture in a number of ways – by focusing on the abstract geometry, or blocks of color – is a novel re-combination of our familiar surroundings. And really friggin cool.
New York City is an open air museum, and I especially love when artists can push that further to make it even more of one. Not necessarily in a giant oversized sculpture way, or even the Sol Lewitt retrospective in City Hall park, which I thought was conventional – disappointing because I adore his work, but something subtle, that makes us take a second look. This happened to me when I was walking on West 22nd street with a few friends. I saw large naturally carved basalt stones, each placed directly adjacent to an oak tree. I realized later that it was Lynne Cooke and Dia Art Foundation’s continuation of Joseph Beuys 7000 Oaks. In his words: “My point with these seven thousand trees was that each would be a monument, consisting of a living part, the live tree, changing all the time, and a crystalline mass, maintaining its shape, size, and weight. This stone can be transformed only by taking from it, when a piece splinters off, say, never by growing. By placing these two objects side by side, the proportionality of the monument’s two parts will never be the same.”
The juxtaposition of regenerative tree with inert stone is a strong environmental message intended to shake people’s consciousness, and he also wanted the work to grow and expand beyond its original inauguration at Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany in 1987. The goal of this social sculpture was also give everyone the ability to create art by planting trees, and also to “extend the traditional role of the art gallery so the gallery extends out into the city”.
Joseph Beuys, 7000 Oaks. West 22nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues in New York City.
Photo: Ken Goebel. From Dia