Astro Botanicals, "Space Plants" and Psychedelic Spirituality

A Conversation with Astro Botanicals artist Stan Clark

Artists color our world through their creations. For FIGMENT artist Stan Clark, creator of Astro Botanicals, those creations are fantastical, hand-sewn, inflatable, botanical sculptures.

“I’ve been making these inflatable sculptures for over five years,” Clark told us, recalling the efforts he put into building his business. “Events help it get off its feet,” he elaborated, “I do festivals and concerts.” In order to expand his project’s outreach, Clark has installed his inflatable sculptures at a variety of professional and volunteer community events around the Bay Area. We spoke to him recently about building his business, and the meanings behind his unique creations.

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Above: Enormous inflatable Astro Botanicals sculptures at FIGMENT Oakland.

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Special PARTYcipation Artist Meet n' Greet!

Calling all Bay Area Artists, Volunteers, FIGMENT Oakland friends...You’re invited to our special PARTYcipation Meet & Greet Mixer on Wednesday, May 24!

Join the FIGMENT Oakland core team on the patio at Temescal Brewing for housemade brews and popcorn. Meet and mingle with FIGMENT artists past and present, volunteers, friends, and the art-curious.

Want to know what's up with being an artist at this year's FIGMENT? Want to learn about what FIGMENT is to begin with? If you’re considering submitting an art project, volunteering, or just want to learn more about how to support this fun and creative event, this is the perfect time to get involved.

Here are the details:

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Above: Participants at FIGMENT Oakland 2015, Mosswood Park


Take a Step Into Urban Play with Illustreet

Above: Video still from Illustreet at FIGMENT Oakland 2015. Click for the video! 

Outdoor events like Coachella,Burning Man, and Lightning in a Bottle have attracted increasingly massive, energetic crowds, drawn by music, community, and art. Each event centers around an escape from our fast-paced, urban lives, allowing us to indulge in a sort of urban play. The Coachella and Lighting in a Bottle festivals both feature big-name musical acts as their main draw, while at the Burning Man festival, art and community-building are the main course, while music shows are a close complement. Together, art and participatory community can shift our perspectives, enabling us to indulge the more childlike impulses of play, fun, and experience for its own sake. For FIGMENT artist Aitan Mizrahi, creator of Illustreet, “all it took was a dry erase board [and] a timer.”

We caught up with Mizrahi this week for a conversation about how Illustreet was presented at FIGMENT Oakland, and how interactive art encourages participants to leave their daily stress behind.

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Meet Chris Hirst, the man behind Robot Dance Party

Get to know the Bay Area's favorite robot

“People don’t dance enough,” announced Chris Hirst, the creative force behind Robot Dance Party: an infamous robot that dances in San Francisco’s Dolores Park, Oakland FIGMENT, the annual Burning Man event, and many other places. “This made me think that a dancing [character] would encourage people to dance more.” People think: “I’m dancing with a robot and it looks ridiculous, but it doesn’t make me feel nervous or embarrassed.”

Dancing seems to have many different connotations attached to it, including ideas about how people should dance. Robot Dance Party started as a reaction to those ideas, with a simple goal: to encourage people to express themselves freely, without having to worry about dancing “correctly.” The fun and lighthearted art project-turned-robot-costume initially started as a submission to 2007’s Burning Man. But Hirst’s lovable robot wasn’t as successful at Burning Man, probably because the event inundated with crazy, wild, and funky art projects. “At Dolores [Park], people are [much] more likely to approach it and dance with it, because it’s unexpected and fun,” Hirst grinned. While dance may be Hirst’s art, the robot itself is a whimsical, artistic reversal of what usually comes to mind when we think of the word “robot.”

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Above: Chris Hirst creates a little Robot Dance Party at FIGMENT Oakland 2015.

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Hiding From the Machine: FIGMENT explores surveillance art

FREEDOM, IDENTITY, AND ART IN AN ERA OF SURVEILLANCE

None of our lives are truly private. Is “Big Brother,” the NSA, always watching us?

It wouldn’t be possible without data. Bright, multicolored advertisements flash across our screens, across most of the websites we use everyday, from Facebook to Gmail, Instagram to Snapchat, using cookies to track our behavior and then pester us about shirts, shoes, or other recently viewed products. These smart, targeted advertisements have enveloped my own Facebook page, each ad resulting from careful algorithmic sculpting of my online reality.

Every piece of our data is a tiny snapshot of our lives. Highly sophisticated facial-recognition algorithms, like Amazon Rekognition, are able to use that data to find a face within a morass of pixels. With cloud technology, facial recognition can now estimate a subject’s age range, gender, and other variables, complementing biometrics like iris recognition, retinal analysis, and fingerprint scanning.

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A model in CV Dazzle facial disguise, courtesy of Adam Harvey 

For FIGMENT artist Adam Flynn, invasive data collection was something many weren’t even remotely paranoid over. That is, until CV Dazzle. Computer Vision Dazzle (CV Dazzle), a project from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), directly responds to algorithms’ invasion into our private lives. Adam Harvey created CV Dazzle as a technology that doubles as art, because each brushstroke has to be strategically placed on a person’s face in order to confuse state-of-the-art algorithms used in surveillance software.

We sat down with Adam Flynn recently to explore this topic, the impact of surveillance on communities, and his goals for his FIGMENT project and beyond.

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A Box Theater, Two Men, and a Red Carpet

FIGMENT highlights DIY interactive cinema with Larry Lansing and Eddie Kestermont

Imagine: It’s a balmy spring afternoon. Eager to watch an award-winning film, you search for YouTube previews of The Revenant. Clicking on what appears to be a film trailer, your screen is flooded with detailed footage of a monstrous grizzly bear sinking his teeth into Hugh Glass, who howls with a pure, unadulterated rage.

Spoilers like these ruin the surprise, rendering carefully crafted stories and artful cinematography predictable instead of exciting. Eddie Kestermont and Larry Lansing, joint creators of The Box Theater, decided it was time to create an innovative spoiler experience. The result: a playful, 10-minute film featuring deep spoilers from The Sixth Sense, Star Wars, and other classics woven into a mini-documentary.

The inspiration was simple: create a high-quality replica of the movie theater experience without full-length film showings. Craving “an outlet for restless energy,” Lansing considered compiling a montage of spoilers celebrating the best moments in cinema. For co-creator Kestermont, spoilers were only the beginning. He assembled deep spoilers—the pivotal moments in a series that profoundly alter an audience’s previous perceptions of the story.

boxtheater4.pngLook out! There are deep spoilers inside this Box! (snapshot from FIGMENT Oakland, 2015)

 

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The Art of Subtraction: Artist Rachel Colwell on the meaning of erasure

A book is a book and it can’t be anything else, right? If it’s one of those musty copies that smell like the local library, then you keep it on your bookshelf and crack it open over a cup of coffee. There’s something deeply rebellious about taking a felt-tip marker to that book and carefully obliterating words, allowing ink to seep through the page. This may feel difficult to many, but this rebelliousness is part of a unique type of art: the use of erasure to create a new story from an old one.

“Erasure is a very simple technique,” Colwell explains. “Using pens, [you] choose 5-6 words out of a page to make a sentence with.” Like her poetic inspiration, Brion Gysin, she finds that crossing out words isn’t just cathartic, it’s also a way to examine how we declare something more “true” or “real.” This is the basis of Colwell’s project, “The Art of Subtraction,” which uses cast-off books and poems to practice the technique of erasure.

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Call for art: FIGMENT Oakland now accepting interactive artwork submissions

The 3rd Annual FIGMENT participatory community event celebrates Bay Area creativity

Oakland, CA - The organizers of FIGMENT Oakland, the Bay Area chapter of the global participatory art organization, have announced the opening of their art submissions portal in preparation for the 3rd annual FIGMENT weekend event on June 10, 2017.

Artists, community organizers and performers of all types are encouraged to submit finished artworks, artworks in progress, concepts, performances, workshops or even games for inclusion in the 2017 event. Unlike many creative events, there is no fee to submit works for consideration, no fee for participation and no fee to attend the event.

“As a curator, I love to see the inception of new, creative concepts,” said Emmie Katz, Curatorial director for FIGMENT Oakland. “We try to find works that demonstrate the variety of ways a person can express themselves. Playful expression goes far beyond painting and drawing, and FIGMENT reminds us all of that fact by fostering work that draws inspiration from practice, movement, resourcefulness, and challenge.”

“At FIGMENT, we feature work that is uniquely interactive, accessible and participatory,” said Irene Malatesta, Outreach director for FIGMENT Oakland. “Our top concerns when selecting and featuring work are: How can we better engage our communities with creativity? How can we encourage participation in artmaking and art appreciation by people of all ages and backgrounds?”

FIGMENT is organized entirely by volunteers. FIGMENT accepts no corporate sponsorship and is completely funded by individual donations. In 2014 and 2015, FIGMENT Oakland presented 200 creative interactive artworks for the delight of 3,500 visitors in Mosswood Park. In addition, FIGMENT Oakland provided 5 weeks of free art education workshops for Oakland area children in 2016.

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About FIGMENT Oakland:

FIGMENT Oakland is a free, inclusive, participatory arts event held in multiple cities and drawing tens of thousands of participants each year. FIGMENT's mission is to offer free, family-friendly and participatory art to entire communities. FIGMENT is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization entirely funded by grants and individual donations. FIGMENT accepts no corporate sponsorship of any kind. The event will be held on June 10, 2017, at Mosswood Park in Oakland, CA. To learn more, visit: oakland.figmentproject.org

Press Inquiries:

Contact Brian Phan, FIGMENT Oakland Public Relations / brianphan@figmentproject.org

Images:

A full FIGMENT global event image gallery can be found here.


Robotics Artist Ashley Newton on Technology, Art and FIGMENT

Something phenomenal happens when technology expands the reaches of an artist’s imagination. Ashley Newton, a San Francisco-based artist, spent her days doing market research in a cubicle before stumbling on that accidental discovery. Newton and her business partner, Sean Stevens, were teaching a class on creating arboretums when one of the students mentioned something revolutionary: a robotic flower. Just like that, the internal gears of a maker began to turn.

“[We] called it Sustainable Magic, because we wanted to create something magical,” Newton smiled. Soon after opening their artistic practice in 2012, Newton and Stevens applied for 2013’s Priceless Art Festival in Belden Town, California, to create radiant mechanical flowers that amaze attendees. The team painstakingly laser-cut the delicate designs. From petals and pistils, Sustainable Magic was born.

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Robotics artist Ashley Newton with some of her creations.

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Celebrating creativity & imagination with artist Robin Birdd

If you’ve heard of the X-Men comic books, you might know about The Danger Room: a fictional training facility appearing first in X-Men #2. “The Danger Room [is] a [space] that changes depending on what the characters want [it] to be,” Robin Birdd noted, pausing to consider the inspiration for her own version of The Danger Room. Robin Birdd and Jeffrey Yip wanted their version to be as much a place for creative imagination as possible: “Every time Danger Room pops up, there’s a new scenario,” Birdd explained.

The Danger Room, a whimsical place of discovery, is first and foremost an interactive space intended to push the limits of the imagination. “With the use of light, texture, and sound, the artists engage the human senses in the temporal unknown,” she smiled. “People were afraid to go in. It’s supposed to be mysterious.” But more than anything, like the comic book space before it, The Danger Room emphasizes training the senses: in unstructured play, participants can imagine anything they want to be.

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Artist Robin Birdd inside The Danger Room, FIGMENT Oakland 2015. (via Instagram)

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