Art I Made in Q1–2022

Chuk Moran
12 min readDec 10, 2022

Holy cow I made a lot of art. I really make a lot of time to create this stuff and enjoy cramming in a huge amount of content to a very small space. Logistical practicalities like “needs storage” or “3x3x2' size in truck” are a bummer. Things that pack small, can be reused often, and that invite the audience into a rabbithole are fun! Semi structured interactions at a booth are nice! Working with a strong team is a blast!

Homemaking

KN-95 Painting

At this point in the pandemic, we abandoned our fabric masks and switched to KN-95 masks that we reuse and wash for a while. I decided to invest the time into painting several of them. This was a great move and I reused them for a long time. I probably should have made some more boring designs, since I mostly did wild ones.

This edge piece is relatively mild, I think!

Street Bird Update

Someone smashed up the big bird, so I fixed it up and added new ones! Using the battery powered nail gun makes this job much easier. I explored 3d shapes using offcuts of purple wood from the previous summer’s tower project.

The yellow bird was done with jigsaw and is more iconically beautiful. The purple one is a fun exploration of 3d space, creating a bird you can view from multiple angles, and that requires less bespoke cuts.
Dave did this quick 2D concept! That’s special because Dave usually doesn’t try making art, and in this case went into a state and built this in like 20 minutes.

Later a vandal smashed all of these. Many people loved them, but one person smashed them so they are gone.

Wood Bed Frame

Trying to upgrade from a Double size mattress to Queen is difficult because the Queen is barely bigger. Spending money to get 6 more inches of bed is hard for me. However, when someone offered a free Queen size mattress, I had to say yes! It came with a frame that turned out to be half dead (MDF with worn out screw holes, I tried fixing the holes, but the frame could not perform.) So I tried building a frame that would do everything I like how I like!

Bed frame not very visible. This is before headboard, which was easy to extend by 6".
I reused the bunkie boards from the queen size frame and just built up the external frame.
I reinforced but still this project failed.

Ultimately, the screws holding the metal rails sheared off from the frame, introducing squeakiness. I think screws are not a sufficient way to join lumber for a bed frame, because the bed frame gets pushed around with great force quite often (eg rolling over in bed). I’ve built many bars, but this is more force than a bar gets almost ever.

I replaced this frame with a metal one from Amazon that is a tad squeaky too. Alas. (I mitigated the problem with neoprene washers on the bolts and oil where metal touches metal. It still squeaks a year later, but my roommates all agree they can’t hear the lumber’s gentle whispers over the loud human moans.)

Out in Wonderland

Plant Parenthood

This was a massive project that made winter fun! Our core concept was that plants are nice and humans should cultivate more of them rather than more humans. I dug into some nice Deep Ecology source material and pushed into radical Earth liberationism occasionally, but mostly I was trying to get an unproblematic vibe of “this is fun, I feel good, it is nice we can party together after hiding away from COVID for so long.”

Found branches downed by a storm via Buy Nothing group. Turned this into a plan for a chapel frame, built some parts, then stashed it all. Returned to the project closer to deadline and built out the whole thing. This is a very complicated table and I’m not sure if I would do it again. I spent this year building and disassembling tables more than I should have.
Built this ridiculously easy sign holder. It’s chaos on the bottom but the sticks hold the cardboard really well.
Then I built this cart with casters and shelves so we could roll around the event doing weird Plant Parenthood stuff. The event was actually too crowded for us to wheel the cart anywhere. Also I planned it out so we could stash the cart under the chapel but my collaborators wanted to cover it in stuff permanently, so it was never clear enough to fit under the chapel. Collaborators do something mess up some plans.
I picked up a lot of decor like this to cover our chapel with plant things!
Ultimately the chapel was beautiful and absolutely stuffed with real plants, fake plants, and random decor of many kinds! You can also see protestor signs far left.
We also had a little “booth” style table with way too much special stuff. Andie made uspaper plants, such as the one far right. I did the books, partnered with Paulina on leaflets, worked with Renee on Matrushka and snowglobes. Far right on table you can see Renee’s seed bank she put together with Dave. Also check out that huge background of even more plants!
Matrushka project. Lots of time invested; very small impact. Beautiful though! Renée did the final paint job.
One of several Plant Parenthood leaflets. I wrote this one with Paulina about having a child. We just pretend it’s about plants.
This one is obviously about cats, but says plants. The anatomy diagram makes me happy; it’s fun for me to reward visitors who are game to dig deep into the art.
I made a huge investment of time into rewriting this entire book. I wrote the new storyline by printing out a scan of the whole book, taking that to a low key Christmas party, then rewriting the story and reordering pages with the other guests.
In my story, the tree beguiles the humans into doing its will and everyone gets laid. No human exploitation of nature. I hope trees develop such psychic abilities in the next few millennia, though it seems unlikely.
Then I rewrote The Carrot Seed with a much deeper process of importing every image and doctoring graphics digitally, writing new text with a new look-alike font, and printing the whole thing on paper then binding it with a saddle stitch.
Ordered a stamp for our excellent logo. Renée made the logo quickly. Stamps are easy and our logo is sharp.
Also churned out some cardboard plants to Take Up Room on the Floor around our booth! They came out very late at night only. They pack flat.
Made a bunch of posters. The nice photography ones are from Andie. This is the first project I did with Andie and she’s great! We also have made some artfriends who protested our project, which I loved.
Usually I advance my poster game from early concept to fantastic propaganda series in the last 2 weeks before the event. For this event, I instead diverted energies to Rats.
We ended up with a crew of about ten who ran various activities, mostly that they made themselves such as Plant Adoption, Finger Fuck a Fruit, and Vegetable Bukkake. Huge hit late into the night.

Rats

This was a sick last minute project. About 2 weeks before the same event where we ran Plant Parenthood, I learned we’d be “mask on” all night with a small outdoor space in the back. I immediately wanted to setup a project outside. Masks are great, but I don’t enjoy trying to socialize in loud indoor areas with one on, I struggle to communicate and that makes it less fun. I’d rather hang out in the cold out back. However, at this point I had too many collaborators to move outside with Plant Parenthood. So I had to do a second project. I like bonus projects and often do have the energy and ability to execute on them.

This one was simple and outrageous. “Rats” is what you say when something bad happens. We’d have a sign, some stupid pseudo gambling games, and a bowling ball bag full of prizes, which included five kinds of cigarettes and a variety pack of snack size chips and candy bars. Cigarette gambling in the back alley.

The name was also inspired by my car. I went in for an oil change and discovered that rats or similar animals had chewed up the insulation under my car’s hood! I replaced this (pretty easy) and was trying to throw out the foam pad when I realized it would be a great substrate for a sign.

With some white house paint, the Rats sign was born! Logistically, this is the best sign I’ve ever made. It’s lightweight, semi rigid, and doesn’t mind abuse. You can leave it in the rain or pack shit on top of it and it still works fine. I added a short length of chain with a carabiner and this lets it hook onto anything.

Rats had an almost constant stream of happy visitors. Our best game was to give you a handful of coins. You hold the coins in one hand but can’t look at them. Then you guess how much the coins are worth. If you’re within some margin, you win! The friendly visitor from Britain was egregiously wrong, guessing her coins might be worth $2 when they were only really worth 17 cents. The more iconically American players did much better, with many guessing the exact value on their first try. I’m pretty sure I made this game up in my head one day and then wrote it down, brought coins, and executed onsite. Great game.

I wanted a few rats scurrying around as decor, so made these in a rush. The body is just scrap paper balled up and taped into shape. The feet and ears are cuts of cardboard (or more likely a fizzy water box?). The fur is basic piñata technique cut crepe paper.

I tried to pad Rats with more activities and so put this “Relationship Basics” page on a light box. I find it an interesting question what are the mandatory minima to “be in a relationship.” If you haven’t seen each other in three weeks, haven’t talked, and have no plans to meet again… are you still in a relationship? Participants had trouble focusing or contributing meaningfully, and, despite their best efforts to make fun jokes, produced mostly drivel. There are a few good ones in here, but mostly a sad cross section of fried minds.

Someone had the nice-sounding idea to add another sheet for “relationship to self” basics, which is really a different idea because you can’t “not be in a relationship” with yourself. But I think they wanted to champion self care? Anyway, this one flopped even harder, probably because our visitors were not trying to meditate on self improvement while gambling for cigarettes in the back alley. Everyone who really wanted a cigarette got one, of course. Someone even traded us some snake oil!

Some friends enjoyed Rats terribly, hung around all night drinking our readily available whiskey, and eventually abducted the rats. Weeks later, the rats returned home in a cardboard box adorned in these ravishing trash capes.

Spinach Help

At a wrap party for the event where we ran Rats and Plant Parenthood, I threw together Spinach Help with some friends. The idea was to build out a minimal booth, offer “spinach brownies” (spinach bake), life advice, and throw baby spinach leaves around for fun. We had a menu of desirable absurdities such as “on time BART train” and “spicy tomato Shen Yun” and “low drama polyamory”. The core interaction, ultimately, was just to play Likey No Likey, which I had just learned in Q4 of the previous year. (Pretty sure we were still playing on pieces of paper at this point.)

This is another staffed booth where participants can walk up and play our weird game.

The “booth” is 2 playa tech tables with an archway going over them (not pictured). Dave and I screwed the archway together onsite in about 10 minutes from many small pieces of 2x2 that fit in my bike trailer. The whole project had to fit in the trailer, which is a tough requirement!

We reused the Spinach Help schtick at a party for a different crew, but at this event only the children wanted to play. (They later used our tables for birthday cake.) Different scene, different vibe. Anyway, for this one I drove materials out so got to experiment with the bamboo. In retrospect, this was a really shitty bamboo structure. It doesn’t look cute and needs a skin (eg fabric) to give it more apparent volume. It held signs, but wasn’t very engaging. Later in the year I got much better at bamboo structures, so this was an important first step.

At the second event, our activity was to hot glue together cute critters out of plant parts, and add googley eyes. This yielded some slightly cute creations, but honestly it’s not that cool and I won’t try it again. Good lesson that this crew doesn’t really want to engage with interactive art at all. More of a “see and be seen” scene where you hang out with an existing friend network.

Skulls

Excited by the success of the papier mache rats, I got to work on a huge series of skulls. I chose this project because it would give me something to work on during the slow months of February, March, and April.

Working in batches of about five skulls, I started with a ballon then built up the jaw, nose, and brow.

These skulls were fully compostable, with the exception of one balloon inside. I even painted them with milk paint and used Shellac finish to stay biodegradable. Ultimately, no one really cared about that and I can’t recommend trying so hard on the waste aspect. Most projects I see are using lots of junk from Amazon that will only be used once, piles of shit from thrift stores that will theoretically be used again (but probably won’t). I told many people about my special efforts to go green on this project, but I never heard anyone repeat this to others; I’d say the waste angle didn’t really matter. People don’t like to consider the sad future of art objects.

I had a vague plan for these skulls, but intuited that ~50 skulls would be great one way or the other. They came out many times later in the year (covered in later retros), but most of the build was done in Q1. They’re great, but I won’t do this again because they take up too much space. If that weren’t a problem for me (eg I had storage and a large vehicle?), then I’d definitely do this again but build them to last. Skulls go with many project themes.

Branded Lighters

Oh my, this was the easiest project. I printed these logos onto paper, cut them out, then used spray adhesive to mount them. We gave away a lot of these lighters at Rats, along with freshly won cigarettes. I’m not sure when I’ll be excited to give away lighters again soon, but this was a slam dunk project. Personally, I don’t care for branded goods.

Party Controller Briefcase

Last run for this project. I changed up the semantics by relabeling controls so it really matched the event. Still not that fun, really, so I junked the content after the event and have been using the briefcase to hold battery powered lights! Much better.

So What?

Good times! I enjoyed making rich artifacts for Plant Parenthood and then shooting from the hip for Rats. I continue to find a better balance between working with a crew and doing my own thing. I tend to over-deliver dramatically, while others under-deliver. It becomes inevitable that our efforts don’t align when I’m so far ahead and my do-to-say ratio is so different! I continue to struggle accepting that other people just don’t care as much as I do, which is also something I find hard in other domains such as cleaning up around the house.

Setting up a structure and then letting others run it worked great, and I got to go have my own fun doing Rats, where Dave and Leggoe both staffed for a while, really driving our success.

I did less wood projects because I was mostly doing smaller projects. Wood is great and I got into it since moving to Oakland because it lets you make big structures easily. But now I usually don’t need new big structures, so instead focused on “content” with some increasingly powerful words and images synthesized in a design tool and exported via the printer into paper books, leaflets, and posters.

In other aspects of my life, I started a new job during this quarter so had to back off my efforts just before Plant Parenthood launched. It was an unexpected switch, so I didn’t get much of a break before. My love life was very fulfilling and I had the opportunity to have fun making stuff, so I did!

By making stuff, in my current content, I’m also creating circumstances for others to have fun and make friends. It’s a virtuous cycle and this quarter was important in building a new wave of it, especially as the Plant Parenthood crew developed going forward!

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