Collaborative arts projects come to Clark Park
REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK | Painting in a 'community ecosystem'
October 6, 2013, 8:29 pm · Updated October 6, 2013, 8:51 pm·
Garett Nelson | DP
Acrobats, love advice and a ton of art supplies — all of this and more could be found at FIGMENT, a participatory arts project launching its first event in Philadelphia this past Sunday at Clark Park.
Explaining the origin of the event’s name, Executive Producer David Koren said “figment” was the one word pop artist Andy Warhol wanted engraved on his tombstone.
“Warhol saw himself as a figment of our imagination,” Koren said. The idea behind this project is to create a collective artistic experience, and therefore, a “community ecosystem.”
Around the time when I showed up, I was drawn into a large painted canvas surrounded by many people. The piece, titled “Blind Date,” invited visitors to contribute to a painting that would be taken with the artist, Stefanie Schairer, to her native Germany.
Schairer first conceived the project as a way to connect strangers to each other. Inspired by a current movement of artists who have come together to paint the Berlin Wall, Schairer hoped to create a space where people could unite in their differences and experiences. Each participant at Figment “makes their own thing but also connects [them] to other objects,” she said.
Later, as I kneeled in the grass of Clark Park, hunched over colorful swirls painted by participants who had come before me, I added my mark to Schairer’s canvas. On my way to paint my initials in red acrylic, a blob splattered from my brush onto a design left by a previous artist. I asked my mom, who was in town for family weekend, to change it into something beautiful. We were transforming each other’s work and that of a stranger.
Nearby was the “Cryospheric Musics” station, where bells and cymbals were spinning under a piece of rock-filled ice suspended in the air. As the ice melted, the rocks would drop on the cymbals. The experience was supposed to be Zen, and offered a surprising sensation of both anxiety and tranquility. I anticipated the rocks falling at any moment, but the loud musical sound that occurred by chance when the rocks finally fell was startlingly calming.
Tracy Broyles, executive director of Spiral Q — an interactive puppet theatre that allows volunteers to be the puppeteers — explained her project’s goal of “shar[ing] values of collective play in the world.” I watched several people get entangled in a paper mache dragon with a cloth body, moving together to bring it to life. “Magical chaos is the way I like to describe it,” Broyles added, which could very well have summed up all of FIGMENT..