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.
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.
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.
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.
Hot Dog on a Stick
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.