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2017 was the first year I had an income and free time with a stable and non-soul-crushing 9–5 job. It was great! These are ideal conditions for creative output.

During that year, I started doing more art, but spent a lot of time on other junk. I did get a couple big projects done and made my first forays into carpentry and running substantial, collaborative party arts. But there was a lot of other stuff going on and I had bigger fish to fry most of the year. It was toward the end of that year that my art game really got going.

In 2018, I started producing works at an increasing pace with larger budgets than before. Whereas an average project in 2012 would have cost me about $10, and in 2015 $20, in 2018 many of my projects cost nearly $100. Some of this money went into better infrastructures (saw, paintbrushes, etc) and some just disappears with each project like candy in a piñata. (Sometimes it was spent on candy for piñatas!)

This was the second most productive year of art in my life — I lived at home for a year after college and, friendless, made a lot of video, drawing, writing, and painting, including Stupid Crappy Moon. But this was the year where my work had the largest and most attentive audience, which I extended by reusing work and exhibiting more strategically than ever before. I’ve had other years that were highly productive in other media (eg academic writing, like the year I finalized Superactually or when I wrote a couple articles and a couple book reviews). But this was a big year for me in art making!

It’s always a great feeling when one’s skill, condition, and audience are aligned to encourage throughput.

Here, I want to reflect on art I’ve done this year. Why, how, when, where, and with who. There are some themes, but I’m basically just a nutter with a paycheck cranking out folk art for his own amusement. Probably this is about as close as we’ll ever get to an artist’s statement or art critique for this work.

Winter

This is approximately chronological, so I’ll start with New Years Eve!

Ball drop for New Year’s Eve. Lots of setup.
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Renée’ drills into the PVC for anchor points. Tent stakes hold ball, can be pulled out by rope at midnight.
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Colleen consulted and encouraged representational approach here, with explicit felt Earth over shiny turquoise acrylic paint.
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Felt is fine.
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Bonus: glowing clouds in blue. Great execution of weak concept. Jigsaw cut plywood backing (primed and painted) with air pouches held in by stretch mesh fabric. LED string lights inside and mounting hooks attached on back. Weather proof! On brand for our house! Dang!
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Wanderstice in January got a map! Final product here is mostly Renée’s finishing skills on display, but I started this one and worked with her throughout. A great product. This is the same paper I typically use for the typewriter work.
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Glasses rack. Shoddy construction. Reused the turquoise. I enjoy and use this daily!
Talk for a summit on this kind of art. Great audience. Provocation pieces are fun! Shot this video version after. Original was interactive with questions and people writing on the slides!
Abridged version for web distribution. I want to do more stuff like this, but there is so little audience for it.
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Repainted my car. Hood paint was flaking. After several iterations, much much masking, and lots of mistakes, I love it. Black is truck bed liner; scratch resistant and easy to repair. Next time: use brush-on not spray! Masking takes forever!
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In early summer I got keyed. Added this stripe. Booyah, my car regenerates.
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Scenarios of Emotional Fulfillment survey instrument / party activity. Idea from Jan 2016. Finally made a first draft and started bringing it out. These lists are getting better, but it’s also going to show a LOT about my little bubble. After a couple years, I can tally lifetime votes per option and shit. People who don’t want to play just do 1 page and go; about 60 seconds. Others talk for an hour then want more.

GroundHEARTstice Day Extravaganstice

So we had a party. Nick put together an invite poster and saved the whole psd, inviting allcomers to edit!

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Original
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Mine
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Midway through the midnight main stage act, Love shows up from China to welcome the Year of the Dog, thereby breaking up the fight between President Cherrytree and Punxsutawney Phil and replacing their (hybrid) holiday theme with a new, distinct holiday theme. We then put up the Chinese New Year decorations everywhere. Characters, costume, and set were great, but we should have practiced the scene. We were nervous. Each gave a solid performance, but our dynamic together was less than the sum of the parts. This is basic “overambitious” and I regret nothing about it.

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Theme
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Theme developers
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Retrofitted a fish pinata and got a dragon? This head, plus red fabric over 2 bodies, went out at party-flip time. If I did this again, I would build the pinata from scratch, here. Part of the Chinese Conspiracy.

Another part of the Chinese conspiracy was the eight white hand fans. I painted “YES” in red on one side and “NO” in green on the other. The spies used them to communicate. I saw one eight months later at another party. That’s a good sign.

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We wrote these on typewriter the week before. Steamed the cookies, unfolded them, inserted these, fold and let dry. We had more fortunes than cookies so we…
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We made more fortune cookies, from scratch. This was utterly foolish and way too much work, but as you can tell it was fun.
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Tiniest most reachiest project for a party we had. Almost no one used it, but it’s kind of badass and I’d definitely do it again.
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Flyer at left on exterior. Flyer at right, inside. See what we did there?
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I love this form, but only 2 people did it. One helped throw the party. But the other one? He had a “really good time.”

As if this weren’t enough, I also printed out several copies of this set of scripts for 2–3 actors. We also had scripts for “choose your own erotica” leftover from another project and read some of those together. It’s pretty much structured, classy flirting. However, writing that shit sexy is hard and the actors generally end up giggling or crazy or feeling awkward. Tough genre.

The goal there was to offer a room where people could “do lines and crystal math.”

Spring

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I went to Hunky Jesus dressed as a rococo rake with white wig and black boots and a typewriter. Then wandered about co-authoring with various randoms. Good schtick. I am good at the typewriter. Lots of good ideas from other people in here, and several more of these were written and left with members of the public.
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At UnScruz. Co-Cray all laid out. Looks crap, but solid game.
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Detail on individual co-cray “hole.” It’s mini-golf with croquet, see.
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Various co-cray hole concepts. All easy, but these don’t pack or store well.
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Gene did this one. Probably the best overall.
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Proof of concept for the Mendocino Magic sign I made in summer. Here, I cut scrap wood into chunks, paint them, affix them, trim the edge. Most of the paint is just acrylic, a applied as a wash!
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This one went to the office. It’s pretty heavy but solid and mounts easily.
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Necklace holder in all 2" x 2". Great material. Acrylic wash.

Summer

The Smuttridge Museum of Unnatural History

Clearly an epic project of unimaginable intellectual delight. This was great to plan but too heavy to execute. I’d like more helpers on build and strike next time!

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I did a lot of stuff for this project, but was officially the curator. Here are hang tags I made for the bags we filled with rocks and substituted for bits of other people’s art projects. Nod to Indiana Jones.
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Foyer and front desk.
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10' ceilings. We built a whole building. Exterior lined with tarp; interior with white jersey. Contains about 40 artifacts in 4 exhibits plus reading room, moop nest, and large special exhibition “arc” visible in center.
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Lovely front desk at night. Gene made this tree by hand.
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Moop nest in corner with infographic. “Matter Out of Place” is another word for trash.
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Infographic detail.
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Reading room by day. We stole someone’s artifact so another group stole it back and left us this “artifact of our culture.” A stick covered in cans and bottles balanced in a 5 gallon water jug. We cataloged it and showed it to visitors.
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Yes, we grabbed the skin of someone else’s 7 person puppet that eats people and dragged it into our veranda and exhibited it. Plaque (on chair here) reads: “Shedded skin of Apatucaparniculus. Typically you don’ even see this. But now it ded. It turns to rainbows.” My character spoke in Hawaiian pidgin, which I practiced for a several weeks in preparation.
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Reach project: I put together this dig grid so people could try to extract magical artifacts. Early one morning, I saw someone sitting in here just finishing up some placid moment of rumination spent with an essay.
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Here is that essay.

Mendocino Magic

Over the summer, I visited Mendocino Magic five times, doing contributing work every time.

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During my first visit, my crew of three was supposed to build four docks. There were barely supplies for one, so we churned this out with an extra coat of finish and also repaired a table and built a bench.

At some point, I came up and repaired some stairs while Renée replaced parts of a deck. Another time I just came for a party. Actually, every time I came by, I also built a bench. It’s just so fun!

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In late summer, we built this cute bridge. 20 footer!

Are these art? They’re lovely and loved and fun. I learned a lot and had never built similar before.

UX Research for my Job

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Work sheets for a conference put on by my company. This was fun, thus encouraging people to complete it. I think we learned some good stuff here.

Priceless

I did three projects for Priceless. An Ignite talk on computationalism and the abacus. I brought the grand abacus out again. Finally, some friends and I setup a white cube with white fabric outside the Pantone themed party within a party. Boycotting party themes by bringing your own conflicting one is great fun, and the Plaid Protest was way cooler than our piece. However, we got to run this white cube with milk fountain all night, and their performance was just a disruption during the first hour.

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The abacus was mostly a decorative element, it turned out. Even at the most intellectually vibrant event I go to, almost no one knew how to use it or cared. However, someone had several very good ideas about how to automate it with robotic controllers. Gosh, that guy knew his shit.
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Building the cube in late afternoon took about 3 hours total. Everyone had fun building it, but we did learn how annoying a Philips head can be when you need to drive at weird angles!
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Coconut milk, water, and ice. This was great and became too frothy only very slowly. The wood here is reused from “the dig” at the Smuttridge. Out of frame: disco ball. This cube is made of uncut 8' 2" x 2", which is Gene’s genius (in frame).

Best.

Home Improvements

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Study for a project later in the summer. Here I used various scrapwood, inspired by work I’d seen the week before at Albany Bulb.
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The dino came out great and still stands in our front yard. Sometimes people add things or he falls over. Definitely one of my best works of the year. Almost all me.
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What else can I do with truck bed liner? Black book book ends! I should have glued them first to reduce squeezing effect, but they’re lovely and really subtle.
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Plastic chain with carabiner as clasp + pendant. Colored with spray this time. Spray doesn’t adhere well over time, but it looks great fresh!
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No spray needed. Beautiful. Ultimately, I bought black plastic chain and had a grand old time in _December_ cutting people in on “Black Chain technology” at a holiday party. By the end, I had made six of these and people had noticed it was a thing.
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Stenciled shirt.

Anonymous Dialogue

HSV-2 has become a more important topic in my world recently and I am struck by the disconnect between the realities of the virus and the perceptions of the public (including people in my corner of reality). I wanted to somehow let people talk about it, without associating themselves explicitly with such a stigmatized condition.

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Questions and boards come with it initially. Stickers and markers let participants add their voice more or less anonymously. Also we leave it at the outskirts of the party overnight!
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This needs to make it to three big, long parties before we can share its findings. Already, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of ignorance and hypocrisy. I got great help on the questions and all words on these boards from Charra and Renée

Something Else

This is a party I spearheaded as an alternative to Burning Man. Most people don’t get this at all, but if you’re thinking about the burn but instead want something else…

Is the party itself art? I’m going to ignore it and present specific arts I made for the event.

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The Dymon Coconut! At the DyCo, “We always try to do our best. But we don’ try too hard!” This was our beach bar. Built with no plans while drinking 20' from the beach. Fantastic. Seaweed affixed with hammer tacker. Great help from Tanuki on this one.
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Renée got us a class on how to use the CNC router so we could do the next few projects. Here’s part of the sign we made for the property that hosted our event.
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Check the monitor. Here, Renée messes with the router bit.
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Renée’s project took way more time on the software than mine, but, because of this, I completed each stage of mine before she did. So I got to work out the kinks! Hers was still hard and broke a bit with an inappropriate cut command. (Should have been a pocket cut!)
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No photo at the event, but my friend Love painted these little dinosaurs up and three eventually ended up living at our house, running up the stairs!
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Renée’s dinosaur! To the right (out of frame) was the station for my scrapwood dino project. It’s just a build site with scrapwood, tools, and paint.
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Finished projects from my scrapwood dino station. I made this dino with whoever wanted to play! Then spray painted at night with whoever wanted to paint. The head and jaw control was all done by Albie.
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Solo work by Gene while very lifted. Beautiful architecture. This stood resplendent behind the bar for most of the event. Extremely solid.
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Solo work by Renée while very lifted. I notice awesome details and conservative frame.
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Didn’t like the venue’s own map, so I made my own. Renée was going to do this but I did it and she did not. She lead efforts on the reverse side, though!
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Redid the back of the map.

Fall

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Feature bucks for UX research at the job. We did a research session with various activities, including a feature auction using these bucks.
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Renée’s dinosaur went out again for Figment Oakland.
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Abacus went out for Figment. Its last run at a public event.
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As a participant at Figment, I got to make this! Also Baba Yaga gave me the green potion at left.
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In this one, I went to the Albany Bulb with Alina, who I met at Figment, and we made some mobiles.
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Great Sunday afternoon project!
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Swompy art for swomp people fundraiser. We had hot corn on the cob, dry corn sanck, and should have had nuggets, but the delivery plan fell through. Best thing about this party: no one else brought art projects. We were kings.
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Also made a fish piñata and stuffed it with blue gelatin and real seaweed from the bay!
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Originally made this as an auxiliary box for the swomp project, but took it home and turned it into a Free Box in front of our house. (Lots of homeless encampments in our area, so things move fast.)
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Renée came along to my parents house, where we installed the abacus’s main panels more permanently. Glad this worked out! Making big, fancy art does kind of require placement.
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Planned and executed this tattoo over one year with Ashley. Work with pen by Tommy Chambers. The chain bracelet is an old piece I’ve worn for a few years, but it’s 100% Home Depot, if you can parse it.

Another Secret Art Party

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Filled with nuts, bolts, computer fans, bike lights.
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The cardboard box went to an all-cardboard project. This box contained about 64 smaller boxes, each with a tiny gift inside such as a candy eyeball or a note saying “You Are Welcome!” Also, at bottom of frame you can see one of the two piñata hats! Bonus last minute add-on!
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Some piñata stuffing. I designed the pink slips, mostly copying something I found online. As in professional design.

Piñatas were fun to build and matched to specific art projects, so we came in at a chosen time and matched their theme (eg crystal for the crystal room) and dropped relevant content (eg Kanye West for the TV piñata, pink slips for the time click). I love the interartaction, but did learn that working for an hour a day for 8 weeks on piñatas is very labor intensive and not a good opportunity for the clever witty junk I like. Also, surprisingly, for each piñata we popped open, there were about a dozen people (front row seats, those hitting or pulling) who had a GREAT time. I thought the whole audience would enjoy it equally, but that was silly.

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I made the quiz. Answers by participants were really solid.

We also decorated a whole hotel room as a park, using cuttings from local flora. I guess I don’t have any photos, but it was a very doable win. I love plant cuttings for art! They’re cheap, easy, and hyperrealistic!

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On the last night, we flipped the whole room and rethemed as “Chillin at the Holidae In

This and That

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Bike rack.
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Worm bin holder.
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Crystal fuel for “Gasolinestice” party theme. In the future, we power everything, man, on, like, crystals, see, man!?
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Also Fanciness Airlines. People took the name tags and used them. We asked guests come in any uniform whatever.
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Each piñata takes about 10 hours across at least 10 days. This one went to the white elephant gift exchange at work, where the recipient decided to pull it apart by hand on the ground, hoping to find candy. I was shocked and reminded to reserve my gifts for more appreciative audiences. It was clearly labeled: “I’m Ramshackle the xmas tree piñata! Fill me with treats and beat me!” Incidentally, this is the biggest piñata I made. Surface area was very high, which basically means more work.
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I was sick the day after thanksgiving and this chair always had some random white paint stuck on the back. So I fancied it up!
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Mail sorter. Used cardboard for the challenge. Good outcome, but certain details could use work.
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A pun on the birthbay boy’s name, I produced Men’s Boss Bargers. Real burgers in BS wrappers with confusing, redundant stickers.
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Still in progress, we’re developing a cute cubicle at work. My co-worker did the clouds and someone else brought the cookies.
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Chill holidays. Renée’s project. At the corner near our house. Very nice.
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Tried to build this desert hare with 2x2 on vacation in Joshua Tree. Sadly, we couldn’t get the weight to balance right and had to cancel the project. This was the only aborted project of the year, so I’m proud of that record!

Conclusions

I made a lot of art. I had a lot of good collaborators. I probably spent a few thousand dollars in total. I made large wood things. I did conceptual art. Interactive art. Jokes. Pretty things. Ugly things. Food. Lots of things.

Small intellectual things are still my favorite. My competitive advantage is in writing lots of small, silly content that matches something physically present. Like the fortune cookies or museum catalog. But my “git er done” approach puts out a lot of easy, low-stress, doable projects with positive ends. When I align this with overall needs of an event, I can make things that are really useful and interesting, which is great. Like the white cube (it was punishment area for people who didn’t follow the theme), the NYE ball drop, or the Holidae In.

My themes were usually just dumb fun and “that is nice.” I’d like to work more on STDs and “you can make anything you want!”

Most of my favorite projects have a functional aspect and are interactive. My most proud moments are interartactions, where we interdisrupt other people’s projects with ours. I want more of that for sure!

I did not make much space for elaborate, beautiful intricacies. I was a perfectionist on almost nothing here, but did get perfected results with collaborators.

Many times I thought, “why don’t I just lay back and watch a movie instead of working so hard?” When I tried it, I felt like “why am I wasting my time? How does this help anyone? Is this even fun?” and went back to doing projects.

I look forward to more art next year!

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Essayist.

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