Art I Made in Q3–2021

This was a time of fun, with mass vaccination precipitating Hot Girl Summer!

Basically all my projects during this time were ridiculous interactive pieces to make events more fun. I delivered at many events, always with several projects. Quite often, I would work on an art project for a while, hang out for a bit, then try to finish up another.

After exploring many different possible ways to produce bright, portable light that isn’t too harsh, I found some excellent candidate toys and stuffed them with LEDs.

It’s a silicone nightlight for children. The original light is very weak, but I crammed in very bright LEDs and programmed a simple orange fire animation. Sometimes I stuff fox-fox in my bike basket and have a bright tail light that also functions as a lantern!
This white dinosaur is originally a lamp sold in Britain. I bought it at great expense, using my company’s Home Office Improvements subsidy, and added new LEDs with a simple rainbow animation. It’s very nice but more fragile than the silicone model, so it only comes up for installations.

I’m not personally moved by light projects, but I do respect how they help establish attention and draw people in. During COVID-times, we have been forced to socialize outdoors with less built infrastructure than usual. This means we need to provide our own light! In the previous year I experimented with many other solutions, and these were some of the last and best pieces.

At first I thought, “I should build a tower with lights on it that people can write on.” My first attempt at this failed. I had no interested collaborators. I didn’t want to haul the materials on my bike trailer. But it’s such a simple idea, so I kept exploring.

Prototype showing that it is really simple to build a tower like this.
Sketch of the tower. The new plan was to conduct a game of misspelling on it, where you start with a word and then write down the most ridiculous misspelling that you think someone else can still pronounce.
This design is more practical for attaching paper. I put in more time sanding and painting than I would have in the past. I don’t think the purple color really helped, but it was motivating at the time.
The tower lit up quite well
Tower covered in misspelled words
The tower tends to get most of its action in the evening or night time. Also it can be carried by one large person or two any-size people quite easily. We attached words with a hammer tacker (a staple gun / hammer), which is also fun!
The tower came to a couple events. At this one, it was imagined as a place to exchange ideas on the conference topic, spreading soundbites and ideas.
This is one of my favorite misspellings.

Later in the summer, I rebuilt the tower as a table to go near the dance floor. The first model I built with screws in wood, which made it hard to disassemble and transport. I then built it a friend, and the second one used just drilled holes and zipties. This was a much better design! The lines were somewhat sloppy, but it’s hard to notice at a party. It was much easier to disassemble, reassemble, move around, and work with. The fabric wrap on top made an excellent beacon and source of light for the table so you can fish something out of your bag and see your friends’ faces.

No one ever understood what I was talking about on this project until these things were actually installed at the dance floor. Then everyone agreed they were great. It’s concerning how commonly I face this reactions with my new work.
The concept is dead simple. Print out nice pages from comics and staple them onto a wooden frame. Hang it and light it from the inside.
In the wild with a small fry behind it. It turns out these lanterns became natural hot spots at a party because the light is nice and warm and you can see your friend’s face.

I learned a major lesson with these frames. Even though they seem simple, I couldn’t get them to pack flat and assemble quickly. I ended up spending nearly an hour onsite to get each one set up . I made two of them and, while beautiful, I got sick of them after maybe 3 events.

It is nice how they rotate slowly in the breeze and hang from trees just anywhere. They are also a nice balance of content (the comic pages are actually quite interesting for those who like to read) and form (it’s just a lantern box thing). But the form factor is a loser ultimately.

This is an outgrowth of my chandelier project from lockdown, when I experimented with a large variety of options for making pretty light that goes up quickly for outdoor events.

Sometimes I don’t have the time to think of a cool new idea and convince others that it’s funny, tasteful, and viable. Sometimes I just hear someone else propose something and I run with it. Hot Dog on a Stick is an old mall fast food joint with some nostalgic appeal to Californians.

Real Hot Dog on a Stick be like…

Here I recreated the costume with pieces of foam and white aprons (spray painted). Materials from a little walk to Michaels.

We set up at a Mall themed party with a deep fryer that Renee got off Buy Nothing. She planned out three types of hot dog on a stick we could make (turkey, chicken, cheese) and what we needed for batter. I lined up the opportunity with the hosts, built our meager stall, and did other things to get the project working. The project was a hit. We took orders, cooked dogs, and served them all night. (I think we ran the project for most of the time between about 10pm and 4am.) Then we ran it again during strike while packing up. Way more dogs were eaten during strike than during the event.

When you run a fun project, fun people who want to do creative things just show up and add to the beautiful chaos! A reveler tried to unionize our Hot Dog on a Stick team (when our friend playing Manager intermittently wasn’t around). We came up with these demands, which she then posted around the party.

I basically set up four beach bars at the same location for different parties. One of these was a very small bar that fizzled. The others were the main hot spot during the day.

My crew was invited help provide art for an event in late summer. We threw together this bar in the middle of the night and the next day another crew decorated it with the green stuff. Their crew described our bar as “the last thing you see before the hurricane hits you” and then claimed credit for building it. They also ran it and served really interesting vegetal cocktails, so everyone won.
This bar is basically the same bar from Q2 2022 except remixed a bit. After basic assembly, Max took it up the hill in his pickup truck. It caught some branches so he placed it and proceeded to decorate it on this theme (more branches), christening it The Cat’s Tail with some burned wood he used as charcoal pencil. Some of the intended decor made it on! It’s a great success in my book, because we delivered a delightful bar experience and an eager collaborator (out the wood work) owned it and made it great. I’m so happy to get the ball rolling when others will jump in and take it far.

This was a solo project, which is good to try sometimes. I think it was a bit too esoteric and basically didn’t have enough people bustling around it to feel like a cool place to be.

The basic idea was to trick out an EZ-Up so it had some reading materials, some booze and marijuana, some activities, some places to sit, some light.
The graphic design was a breeze but also very satisfying! I am proud of how this project reused a lot of things I’ve learned before. Establishing my own conventions helps me make more good art faster.
As part of this project, I brought a couple of half-finished canvases I had come across recently and pens so others could improve the work. This one got a lot of pen time because it was placed near the stage at a friendly table with some tall chairs.
Yet another swing from me. This is the first time I actually deployed the silly idea of a double swing. These fantastically playful people actually got it swinging, even though the physics are not in their favor.

I should mention that I put up swings at about a dozen events that summer.

I’ve reused this almost as many times as swings.

We set up a table in a somewhat remote corner of the woodland park, hang chandeliers and swings, provide booze, reading materials, and activities. In this photo, Sophie is reading a bespoke printing of an H.P. Lovecraft short story. The book is printed so each page contains only one sentence. We tried adding illustrations to some pages, which was an ok game but not great. Dramatic reading was fun because the prose is so lurid and maniacal.
I installed Friendship Park at this same site for different events four times that summer. Here you can see the beautiful candelabra starting to warp. It’s built with two layers of cardboard that are perpendicular so they fail more slowly. But fail they shall!
At our dinosaur themed party in late August I included some really great catalogs of dinosaurs. The one on the right was way better. The American Girl guide to What to Say was somewhat popular, but many people hated it. I wonder why they are so offended by the idea that they could be better conversationalists or more polite people?
At some point, I wandered up to Friendship Park and was invited by someone standing there to have my prophecy revealed! She explained I had to read the book about ponies aloud, then receive a spanking, then have a shot of tequila, then open the box and roll the dice. I really love an interactive project that enthusiastic people choose to take on as their own for some time. I don’t think that she ever discovered that I created this installation. Perfect.

Years ago I had a dream of setting up a stall to sell fake fishes in an outrageous British accent. I think it’s a Monty Python kind of joke; the fishmonger sells odds and ends, pretending they are all fish. The other person then gets to play the familiar role of questioning consumer: “Is it genuine?” “ Has it gone bad a bit?” “They have bigger fish across the street”

In this way, you can instantly recruit the person into an improv scene that will continue to be funny as long as the silly props keep coming.

In the year before this project, I got the notion in my head that I should learn to appreciate canned fish, as preparation for the inevitable collapse of fisheries everywhere. Exploring tinned fish, I found many interesting varieties, especially in Asian and Russian markets.

When I realized that a party I was throwing had extra space in the truck, I launched into action and built a fish cart from scratch.

I did a good job on this one, sanding and using a two-in-one stain and finish to give it a nice, somewhat downmarket realism. This design is actually quite practical because you can move the cart just a bit and it’s fun to haul it. The under shelf held baskets which were very useful in keeping some things in reserve, such as more fishes.
Here we brought the project out to a park where East Bay Bike Party had a stop. This was one of the rare occasions where I presented my art to normals, and they were mostly incredulous and confused. Most stared, pointed their phones, and directed their attention to the most conventionally attractive woman in our group. But we had fun and offered lots of fish nonsense, which a few people were ready to engage in!
Just for Bike Party, we dressed as pirates and also offered this pirate pinyata at some point. This was an ok pinyata, but the Fireball Party Bucket is a fantastic filler and the normals enjoyed the freebie.
At another event, participants got much more into it. We sold 2 fish and a rabbit to eager children in exchange for chocolate gold coins, which we left undefended on the counter. Someone brought these foreign potato chips and someone else the pickles and clam chowder cans. I had no part in this bizarre arrangement of skull, pickle, tentacle, and booze. But I did remember to take a photo at this point. This project used the same Pirate Playlist developed for our Pirate Hotdog bar back in Q2, playing off a couple of Bluetooth speakers we keep on or around the cart.

Bonus: this project has an afterlife as a backyard table at Sophie’s house. Her dog loves to hang out under the cart and her roommate likes to play bartended off the fish cart with the cider she brews at home. I actually just saw her install a custom printed sign to go behind the bar to cultivate the vibe further! That’s great because most of these art projects will get reused just a few times and then discarded. I reuse the parts, but eventually even the parts become junk. It’s fun when the core structures can live another life.

Conclusion

It’s so beautiful that I am doing this and I want to keep going!

Collaborators make it way more fun. Crew helps us do it big. Enthusiastic randoms add spice! Normals take and take. I’m very fond of projects that set up the audience to become a participant, provide content, and run the show. It’s basically work to run the show, but if you set it all up, someone will often offer to do the work! Just as I do for them so much before the event and after.

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