Art I Made in Q4–2022

Chuk Moran
7 min readAug 14, 2023

There was just one big art, which ran at the end of November. Then I slipped in a couple little ones. I spent the last week of the year on a flooring project which will not be covered here!

Sometimes I wonder if there are better things I could be doing with my time, but then I think seriously about it, and decide there are not.

During this period, I deployed and refined lots of formulas. Custom printed board games, papier mache dolls, paper lanterns, pinatas, stickers, and hats. I think most of the learning during this process was about people, what they want, and how to get them to make each other really happy.

Biltmore Area Trash Services

This was a project for a very nice immersive art event that lets us take over entire hotel rooms to exhibit in. The idea here was to copy the branding from Bay Area Traffic Solutions but run a Trash Services operation that had a quiet side-cult about the bats that live there too. It turns out this has substantial overlap with Carlsbad cavern, which has been strewn with trash and full of bats for a long time!

Often I dive into logo work early on, because it’s fun to imagine the project and easy to work on this while at a computer doing other stuff. I’m really not a logo designer, but this one had a nice process.
AI got me the messed up idea of putting bat wings on a trash can (far right), which Andie evolved into a very cute hand drawn punk rock logo, which we then cleaned up into a proper brand.
Early AI concept art was very vague. Something about bats made of trash.
We committed to the BATS acronym, but various projects changed what that actually stands for! One of our best posters.
The BATS posters are mostly just wacky.
At this point I’d gotten pretty excited about running marketing against yourself on the side. In this case, we have very basic and obvious insights presented as controversial evidence against BATS, supported by a fake cause that reuses our branding almost exactly. “This isn’t really heck” was probably the most popular poster at the whole event; the event theme was Heck.

Curb Appeal

These bat facts were well received. The ones about actual bats are all nonsense. The ones about recycling are all true.
Color print, cut to size, cut foamcore to match.
The format was one I rediscovered at the Exploratorium. It’s such an easy project to build and the graphic design started with an AI prompt for a similar fact-revealing exhibit at a museum. So I’m deliberately setting expectations using the AI’s guidance for “what things look like.”
Typically the written content I put together has some of my best insights about the topic. The one about demons here was inspired by months of work on bats, realizing that they’re associated with evil and hell largely because their wings look cool so artists use them when drawing evil monsters.
I made us two signs so we used the event organizer’s provided sign as an opportunity to showcase their sign artists’ “Trash is Beautiful.” I was especially proud of the very silly way we’ve tension mounted the signpost by taping together short boards. The BATS sign in the back is actually painted on the back of the RATS project we ran earlier that year.

The Cave

Another one of our classic 2x2 structures. In this case, we had to fit inside some very small and awkward dimensions.
The antechamber establishes to visitors the “immersive” aspect — they are now entering a very strange otherspace. We hung lots of trash and things starting here. Across the course of the event, we added more and more (cleaned and processed) trash.
Lounge in corner with self-guided meditation about bats.
Meditation box was a collaboration between Tyler and Lili. I don’t actually like meditation or chillout zones, so didn’t touch this. Microwave tower by Gene, with fun lights and stuff inside.
For the first night of the event, we presented a fairly tidy space with some trash and bats.
Building out the structure was fun. Gene and I have been learning together about these chaos-style 2x2 builds, which let us make very wild and visually exciting structures that are actually strong enough to build on. These are the same 2x2s we take to many events. They can build a lot of different stuctures and we always need that for an installation.
Tyler’s excellent receipt printer box rode again, with a very simple and satisfying mechanic.
The pulpit was used for games and someone even asked to take it over and deliver a trash sermon.
Much of the ar was just to prepare so much trash to hang. I came up with a system of “trash garlands.”

Trash garlands are actually a bit hard to make. First, you need visually compelling trash, not just arugula boxes or old egg cartons. To look like trash, snack packaging and disposable cups are more visually compelling. Then you have to drill a hole through each item and run a string through them all, adding some knots in the middle so things don’t all just hang at the bottom.

Some of the things we hung here actually stand on their own. The shoe on a rope (foreground, right) has been to many events now and is a fun dance partner or toy for playing “monkey in the middle.”

Decor

Renee and I developed the hanging Chinese takeout lanterns. Adding colored tape to the bulbs inside helped a lot too.
The bat light was one of many simple decor items purchased far in advance online. These little touches help a lot and are easy wins when you have some budget to spend against.
I like making little dolls like this.
For some reason, I got the idea that you should make little critters and put them up in your installation. BATS was just one of several projects where I did this.
Framed trash was one of our earliest ideas for decor in this room.
My first framed trash. I went on a walk around my block in Oakland to find these magnificent pieces of trash.
The large, glowing painting was a great street find that Renee and Dave scored. We modified it a bit and ended up with this great large-format piece.
Pinata. I think I filled this guy with the wrappers of various candies and treats you’d hope to find in a regular pinata. Most of the time, he just hung out as decor, but then we had a very nice time with pals Raz and Annie, who rounded up a crowd to smash the pinata in the rotunda. The BATS team didn’t have any very strong barkers, so it’s nice to have friends pitch in. Smashing a pinata in the corner with no one watching is much less fun.
The team discussed quite a bit whether BATS was a business or a cult. Here, I rewrote the Lord’s Prayer for the trash cult. Ultimately, this was not a very impactful piece and no visitors asked about it. I think the creative team often worries more about storyline details than the audience ever will.
One of my favorite signs of all time. I really like that there is no “boring chrome” here. You just get overwhelming, gnarly effect.

Interactivity

Tyler made this awesome bat puppet which then spoke at the pulpit. This has been a great puppet to reuse at other events later!
Andie ran a spelunking hour with these hats, where she turned off all lights in the room and invited people to wander around in the dark with each other wearing this gear (hats made of trash).
This table of bat nonsense is actually quite rich. The phone connects to a phone tree that has various rewarding experiences about bats and trash.
This game was ridiculously popular. I selected especially weird-shaped trash. The very best piece was a part from a toilet valve, which was of course washed before use.
The half melted crate was a very lucky find!
I made this custom card game for the event, basing it on Love Letter. It’s very pretty and the gameplay is decent. However, it requires too much attention for this event and was not a hit. Mostly people take single cards from the pile as a memento! It’s always interesting to discover what participants will decide is a present for them to take home.
Dave delivered this very nice record player with different albums featuring themed trash. The needle has a bat on top of some straws and it flaps its wings when it runs over ramps on the record (in this case, the American Spirits pack is the ramp). No music is played off this! We use hidden bluetooth speakers usually.
The dollhouse was $20 on craigslist and pretty fun. Someone mentioned to me the previous year that I had been making lots of boyish activities into art, so I should try some girlish ones, like dolls!
The dollar store was a great source of parts for our twisted bat dolls.
Trash boulders for sitting on. These are a bumper and a piece of luggage cut turned into seats. I don’t think many people understood they could sit here, so I think this project failed. It was interesting, but using power tools to cut hard plastics felt a bit unsafe and the result is not strong.
Another game that was not a big hit. In this case, I had already built a new wood box version of this game and so was read to convert the original box into Trash mode. The gameplay is simple: flip over a card that names an item, then all players reach in at once, trying to find the item.

Overall, the BATS project was very good. It was a great room and switched from “must see weird room” to “excellent chillout chamber” over the time of the event. Usually, our projects are ready to go at event start and have no line to visit. Most projects open late and have flow issues, so that even by the last night not everyone has seen them who wanted to. This seems to be a persistent trend and we could probably figure out a way to be more strategic in using this reality.

We had a strong team and did a good job organizing some work nights to get more done. Trash garlands were really quite a slog, but they had a huge impact, giving a trashy context to every other piece.

Carlsbad Cavern happens to be a real cave full of bats that has been full of trash until recently! People used to go down there and party basically, but now it’s a National park.
The dump where we left most of the project. This has exactly the vibe we were going for. I’m most excited about the machine smashing trash down the corridor, with lights and steam/smoke effects. Most art is going to become trash after people enjoy it for a moment. For this project, most of the things started as trash anyway.

Fish Cart Again

The fish cart was a project from the previous year, but it now lives permanently in Sophie’s yard. So, for her house party, I decided to reactivate it. Once you have a bin of fish props in storage anyway, these things seem reasonable to run for a one-night house party.

I am pretty happy behind this cart.

This is Fine Cafe

Sophie and I collaborated on this one for a psychedelic Christmas party. Here, we took over an entire bedroom, put up our cardboard flats, then served coffee, cookies, and booze! What a nice time.

The smoke cutout isn’t that strong, artistically, and was flimsy terrible paper that I only used because it was leftover in my house. With stronger paper, we could have reused this and it could have been a more compelling smoke cloud.

We later reused the This is Fine cafe concept at several future events.

Chairs

These folding metal/plastic chairs are replacing some wooden chairs. It seems that I got drunk and broke one, leaving only the more rickety one. Anyway, this spray paint and label solution has been going well, though people still walk away with the chairs despite the extremely clear labeling. Understanding people better helps us find more rewarding relationships with them.

Conclusions

This was the end of a very beautiful post-COVID summer and our art crew was doing great. I’m glad I had the chance to do this wonderful art with lots of eager friends! Really, we overproduced given the commitment we signed up for, but I started noticing at this point that productivity is my “super power.” The work we did after this was even more staggering, so I’m glad we did all this and efficiently reused many component parts.

It turns out the Bat Facts never did get thrown away. I see them at the homes of many of my collaborators! Sometimes we make art for ourselves.

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