Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Brooklyn Museum Debut or Good Art Gone Wrong

As previously mentioned, the Brooklyn Museum invited me to do a massive participatory art event for their monthly First Saturday Party.  Well, here's how it went down!

1) Visitors to the third floor Beaux-Art Court received a rhyming riddle.
(notice that the floor is a grid of glass tiles, this will come into play later) 
2) The answer to riddle could be found on one of the art pieces in the museum, so visitors boldly ventured forth in search of truth and beauty!
3) When visitors found the answer to their riddle they could use it to claim a 20"x20" tile from a docent on each floor. 
4) Back on the Beaux-Art Court, visitors decorated the tile according to the instructions on each one (thanks to all my awesome friends who helped make these tiles!).

Decorating materials consisted of old Brooklyn Academy of Music programs, old Pratt Institute exhibit programs, and art catalogs from the Brooklyn Museum.  The idea being that the art is literally created out of the big three Brooklyn art institutes. 
Some folks started doing three-dimensional decorations

5) Once the tiles were decorated, visitors found out to which coordinates on the floor grid their tile corresponded.
As the individual tiles were placed next to each other, they began to form a giant mosaic in which the artistry of each individual tile was revealed to be part of a much larger artistic design.  And so, as each person labored to make their small mark of beauty, they began to step back and understand that the project as a whole was...
way too popular for what we were prepared for!
Yup. We simply weren't able to handle person-hours of participation involved. Here are my reflections on what went wrong.
A) We under-estimated how involved people would get in decorating their tile.  As a result, we did not have nearly enough scissors and glue sticks, heck, we didn't even have enough table space (we had six party tables).  So people just started tearing paper with their hands and working on the floor.
B) I thought it would be more exciting if people could turn in their clue for a tile on every floor.  As a result most of our staff was spread out in the museum being under utilized, which meant that there weren't enough people at the Beaux-Art court to help explain the project at the beginning and help people place their tiles at the end.
C) We needed people to help folks place their tiles at the end, because I thought it would be super awesome  surprise if the location of the tile that people were decorating was a secret right up until they placed it. Turns out this was no where near the logistical nightmare caused by requiring every person to check in again. 
In the picture below, you can me, Chris Rini, who designed the final grand scale image, and the director for the First Saturday program, all explaining to folks what's going on. Out of camera are probably my various awesome friends who I conscripted to help the project run. 
 As a result, what would have been a 1200 sq ft mosaic, only got about half-way finished--not enough to really get a sense of what the final image is.  However, visitors really enjoyed both the riddle solving and the tile decorating, so the museum was happy.  They held on the tiles that people made and are thinking up how they might use them in future.  
Personally, I always say that my art form is getting people to have fun creating together, and by that metric, the Brooklyn Museum was a success!
Thanks to Ventiko for the great photos! See more on Facebook.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Doubting Thomas Body Suit

A couple months ago I had one of the most intimate honors of being a pastor:  I was present with elderly woman as she passed away in her sleep after a long life lived well.  As I sat with the woman, I noticed that in death there is no vanity, no pretense of false youth.  The wrinkles and white hairs that during life had been objects of embarrassment, in death became trophies, became signs of challenges overcome, laughs fully felt, and tears honestly shed. 
I could not help but think of the Apostle Thomas, who when told of Jesus' Resurrection, said, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." Because of this he is known as Doubting Thomas. But it seems to me Thomas is not doubting that Jesus has come back from the dead, he is doubting whether this resurrected Jesus means anything.  Thomas needs to know that the person who Jesus was, including the suffering that he experienced, is still the same, even if he has transcended that suffering and overcome death.  But as I looked at the woman who died, I couldn't help but wonder if, in addition to his wounds, if the resurrected Christ also carried crows-feet from belly laughs, liver damage from too much wine at the wedding at Cana, and cataracts from the light of the sun reflected off the Sea of Galilee. 
So for Performance Anxiety, I asked my friend Ventiko to wear a body suit.   
Then I invited people in the crowd to roll a pair of giant foam dice.  Depending on the number they rolled, they were to decorate a part of Ventiko's body with yarn, paint, glitter, puffy paint, feather, and puff balls. 
Participants manifested the scars (good, bad, and fully both) that a person might carry within as reminders of the life they lived and markers of who they are.
But perhaps we don't have to wait until death to take pride in the marks that show our body to no longer be young.  Perhaps even now we can run our fingers along the ridges on our skin from crashed bikes, the dark spots from playing in the sun, the divots from acne popped as anxious teens, and wear them with pride as medals earned in the service of a life fully lived.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Parable of the Podcast: Cain and Abel

Parable of the Podcast is back with Cain and Abel.  This podcast has got it all, jealousy, betrayal, tragedy, and even lighthearted banter between friends. Listen to the episode here.  The next episode is about John the Baptist in Luke 3 trying to get people to repent in preparation for a new world.  So if you have stories about resolutions to improve yourself or the world call (862) 243-2763 and tell us how they worked out!