Art I Made in Q4–2021

I built a few things and I had fun bringing interactive art installations to events.

Building Things

I like building things, but not if they’re pointless. It’s sad when I make an art object and have nowhere to put it, no one to show it to, and nowhere to display it. I used to do this a lot and thought the art somehow still mattered. Now I feel much more that if an art falls in a forest and no one hears it, it doesn’t make a sound I care about.

During this quarter, there weren’t many good opportunities to exhibit complex work, so I made a few things for my home and built some lightweight nonsense I could carry around and use temporarily here and there.

Earlier this year, I built a coffee table. Here, I built a second.

In my experience, most coffee tables are large, heavy, and immobile. They collect clutter, such as magazines, and lock down a space. In this project, I’m expanding a very small, lightweight, mobile table into a modular system that can give us a large centerpiece for group dinners or disappear into the corner to make space for dance practice.

The coffee table is made from an old light project. The old one involved packing air bags which had disintegrated into nasty microplastics.
I’ve gotten used to pulling out the old fasteners, sanding down the wood, building something, unbuilding it partly to paint it, and then making a final assembly usually with some minor adjustments.
I trimmed the legs down slightly so the new white table fits under the blue one. This lets us have one big table or two small tables. Most often, we stack them both up in the corner and use neither!

The white paint is handling wear pretty well. I had assumed I’d need to resurface these.

With these tables, I’ve become very sure I want to stop covering wood with house paint. The grain is still slightly visible, but makes the surface seem imperfect. When we expose the grain, it can instead look beautiful and unique. I’m still learning about indoor woodworking.

Right. This one was actually just a leftover light from Nocturne X. I trimmed it and added a simple mounting system in the back.

The best thing about this light is that each side of the bed now has its own gentle light with easy push button. This way I can head to bed and leave a light on for a bedfellow who may join later.

The first table we got a long time ago from a friend. A fine table.

I saw a nice IKEA tabletop on the side of the street and this project began. After a roommate left with many bins of items they stored in the studio, Renee and I disassembled the whole rack, painted the wall, and won new space for the common area from personal storage, the perpetual foe of the commons.

The tabletop rests against the back wall with its new frame coming together.
Finished, it’s a very simple and forgettable table. Perfect! The bottom keeps items from getting wet. This shed sometimes gets puddles during heavy rains.

Sometimes people like to hang out and aren’t sure what to do. If they start to notice this, they may decide they should depart to go take care of personal business on their own.

I like to encourage activities that are fun in the short term and productive (in some sense) in the long term. Here, I took a December hangout and got people to prepare this fake tree and ready props for our insane Christmas Tree art experience room (described much later).

We got crazy one night and made this. I got Renée to trace the curves here, which are totally cartoony and not how real trees are shaped at all! Cute, legible, and quite a bit stronger with these supple curves. This spray paint is the wrong color, but we already had it.
This eventually became our house Christmas tree.

Playing Around

When I go to event, I like bringing little, easy art projects where anyone can run the interaction and anyone can drop by and spin it the way they like. Basically, I make a plan with some artifacts I’ve prepared in advance, coordinate transportation and setup with others, then help run the booth/thing with friends. Ideally, other people will take over the booth/thing and host the interactivity for others! The most recognizable example of this is when we build a beach bar. We plan it, bring materials, build it, then run it for a while until someone else is running it. Some people go visit it, others host it and keep it tidy, we set it up and clean it up after the event. It makes the event better.

Unlike a bar, most of my builds are “art” projects where the props and interactions are not just drinking. Instead, we do things like pretend to sell you (obviously fake) fish in British accent, bully you into adopting plants, show you around a museum of nonsense, or offer you silly advice.

With these builds, some visitors want to follow the script, some are just overwhelmed and walk away, the very boring people point their cameras at us and are confused, and the very interesting people make their own offers and ask us to keep up. (Someone tried to buy the fish cart for a dragon egg.)

In a sense this sort of work is improv with props. We establish a scene so you can get going, then let participants enjoy, explore, make wild claims, and realize their imaginative selves beyond their expectations or usual identity. My review of Keith Johnstone’s Impro says more about this aspect of improv. It’s basically a nice thing to do but I wouldn’t say it changes the world overnight. Much better than drinking and watching sports, though.

I ran the fish cart at Sophie’s house warming party. People were very enthusiastic and much fish was consumed. This was the fourth run for the fish cart.
At a picnic for a local arts event community, we ran this micro installation called “Spinach Help” where we offered spinach and sex advice. The build was fantastic and fit on a bike trailer. A bunch of short pieces of wood with some signs form an arch over playatech tables. Dave helped me build it out in about 20 minutes with a couple of impact drivers.
At a housewarming party with no activities, Sophie and I lead this mural project on a pizza box. We got several people to add a helpful cow.
Then demons.
At another house warming party, I ran Snack Roulette with Renée and Dave. This was one of the first times I ran a schtick with Dave! We later ran many more. This party was very focused on art and we met some really good people here, including another crew already serving outlandish snacks.
At the AYLX fundraiser, I brought a few art activities including the rubber band gun shooting gallery, paper hat building, and cardboard knife crafting. Here you can see the Transmogrifier project that we got Leandra’s team to build. I came back later in the night and cut up the window and counter, as a small shop selling knives and oranges at the edge of the dancefloor. I’d love to build more tiny shops out of cardboard like this.
EDIT: I forgot this runaway hit also happened during this quarter! I printed out cards for Likey No Likey and we have played this at dozens of events since. The gameplay is simple: get four cards and decide most to least liked. Other players then argue about it and try to guess your preferences. Then you get to explain. What I did was the graphic design work to print these out all cute.

Something that guides my artistic production is the events that others throw and invite me to! My artistically inclined neighbors had a twisted holidays party and I organized a “Tree” room. They gave us a small bedroom that was unoccupied and we built a magical little world.

Load in! This part is always a bit stressful and exciting. I wonder if I actually like that this part excuses a particular form of anti-social behavior. I don’t want to talk to people or hang out because I have an important mission. Everyone respects that mission and is happy to see the result.
Our room was amazing. We had spent an evening wrapping random objects from around the house as gifts. Then, at this room, we decorated the tree, put up some signs, and got everything ready. When someone would poke their head in, we told them that grandma had chosen them a gift and they should come get it! They get to choose the gift, unwrap it, act excited, and then keep the gift or leave it. (I whispered this to people who needed reassurance.)
We also ran a piñata in this room. It was a stocking and we hung it back up on its hook twice to smash it more. Christmas smashing!
A nice artifact of my artistic process. This was my todo / packing list for this one night event. You can also see here that our “stash box” (containing tape, scissors, extra ribbon, etc) was also wrapped so it would blend into the room better.

Conclusions

I really thought I hadn’t done much art during this period. Actually, I just reused lots of bits of other art projects, which is excellent. I delivered art to many events, making them more fun and engaging.

Showing up so consistently with projects makes me wonder what the point is. These days, I think that it basically enriches nightlife, helps me and my friends meet people we like, and makes us a better beacon of hope for people living more pathetic lives in the large bleak world. What is the point of good music? What is the point of good movies?

I have many times considered the null hypothesis that there is no point to this work. When I try to insist on this for a while, I end up feeling like an idiot in denial of the life I actually live and the lives of those around me.

Fun art is great! Enriching our free time is worthwhile! Jobs are dumb!

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