Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Figment Project (NYC & Boston)

This post has been brewing in me for some time, specifically since I attended the opening weekend of Figment Project in Governor’s Island in NYC back in June. I waited until now so that I could include pictures and impressions from Boston’s Figment as well.
If you are completely unfamiliar with what Figment Project is, simply put, it is an Outdoor celebration of Interactive Creativity. Let me elaborate on this a bit.

Figment NYC
Figment NYC


















Outdoor
The outdoor aspect of Figment allows people to see that art does not have to be something that lives in a museum, or a theater, or some other "art-designated" place. Most adults these days balance long work hours and social obligations leaving almost no room in their lives for creative enrichment. The Boston Figment location in particular sees a lot of people who were just walking down the street where they maybe walk to work every day, and then they stumble upon something beautiful, or weird, or even scary, but nonetheless imaginative and inspiring. By taking away the intrinsic pomposity associated with museums, Figment succeeds in making art available and approachable thus encouraging us to make it a part of our daily lives.   

Interactive
"Honey, look! It's reacting to the thing!" I overhear a grown man exclaim with childish enthusiasm. Yes, not only can you touch the art but the projects are also extremely interactive. 
There are tree houses to climb into, headless horses to ride, tunnels to hide in, drum canoes, weaving stations, dolls to dress - plus a whole menagerie of objects that make sound, or flash lights, or talk to you when you walk by them, or push an inviting button, or pull a string. 
Figment Boston (look at the eyes! I call this Electrocat selfie!)

Figment NYC




















Figment NYC
Figment NYC
Figment Boston

Figment Boston
Some projects are simple and others extremely technologically elaborate, but all of them invite you to explore. In many ways, the process reminds you of what it was like to be a child first getting to know the world around you. Your mind was soaking up new experiences like a sponge, and EVERYTHING was interesting and exciting. You were captivated by the most mundane activities such as socks turning around in a dryer because you've never seen this before and had no idea how it worked. I miss this feeling and find that I rarely get to encounter it as an adult. 

Creativity
Speaking of socks in the dryer though, perhaps my most favorite pieces of art at Figment are the ones that take ordinary every day boring objects and find a unique and imaginative way to use them. When I was little, I played this game with my mom when she'd hand me a household item and ask me to imagine it to be something else. For a few glorious moments a hair brush would stop being a hair brush and become a space ship gear stick or some weird communication device. I think many of the artists at Figment played the same game. 
Figment Boston








































Who says a traffic cone has to spend its life entire life being a traffic cone?


Figment Boston






































And why can't a fully functioning synth have staplers for keys?


Figment NYC

Close-up of the structure above
Figment NYC































































a slightly different way to recycle cups and plastic bags




Figment Boston












Another line I overheard in the crowd was "I don't think you are supposed to understand this" in regards to the silent theater project.
I hated this word "supposed" in this context. As adults we constantly surround ourselves with these "supposed's". We act the way we are supposed to act, think the way we are supposed to think, and feel the way we are supposed to feel. We constantly reinforce these self-constructed walls and guard them from within. I won't burrow into the magnitude of the question as to why we do it, but I think any time that we give ourselves an opportunity to act, feel, think outside the box is a good thing. All of this stimulates and encourages our imagination and this leads us to the most important question of all - why do we need it? Why would someone outside of the artistic careers need imagination? And in my opinion it's because without imagination we are reduced to just our basic functionality. It's our imagination that allows people to love each other beyond the "compatible mate" mode, it's our imagination that allows for such terms as hope and compassion, it's imagination that lets us dream of a better tomorrow and then take steps to make it come true. In all honesty, I won't ever put it more eloquently than Terry Pratchett's Death did in Hogfather. Ramble on Figment Project! You have my endless love!