“Wow, that really is puppies all the way down”
At the sight of the absurdly over-sized PopDogs overflowing with puppies. They were cute, adorable, and populating the scene that pointed directly towards a very specific reminder of the serious problem that is canine overpopulation in cities. The popcorn analogy worked perfectly and the cuteness spilled out until you were reminded about how society digests pets and leaves a gigantic sick feeling in our society. I’d not really prepared for real “in your face” art, reminding me of reality, but then again I wasn’t really sure what to expect at all. However, I was already impressed.
After a brief ferry ride and a couple of minutes walk, my companion & I found ourselves smack in the middle of the 2013 edition of the participatory art festival known as FIGMENT. I was attending because a critical mass of friends, colleagues and scene-sters were doing things, but I’d totally forgotten that it was created to bring art and community to us urbanites (in addition to a plethora of other reasons I’ll be outlining along the way here).
To my right was an alley of food trucks and options for whoever had built up an appetite since they’d left Manhattan. Governor’s Island, a rarely used public resource, had been re-done for a weekend of family-friendly, compelling & (most importantly) brand-free experiences for whoever wanted to make the trek. I expected a few statues and some random museums and houses. Then I turned to my left and realized there was a giant dj booth/dance floor surrounded by plastic bottles in netting on the green a football field away.
We walked in and I had to blink, shake my head and remember I wasn’t at a Digital Native party somewhere in Brooklyn after midnight. Simply because there were younglings dancing on the dance floor, and really getting down to their excellent selectro DJ picks, who kept the main pavilion rocking from open to close both days. This space was an excellent center to the main green that most of the art and Figmentarians (I’ll just invent that, whatever) had art radiating out from it in every direction.
Towards the food & tree house was Aqua Attack! This, soon-to-be-most-relevant summer game ever, consisted of standing in kiddie pools in comically awesome swimwear and chucking soaked stuffed animals at an opposing team’s pools. Of course, while the other team is attempting to do the same. This was aimed at largely giving the kids a way to exhaust themselves while the adults looked on in bemused entertainment as the burners corraled the younglings and got all that energy out in a series of frienzied chucking-things-not-in-the-house outbursts. While not wanting to out anyone in their skivvies, my companion managed to capture some of the casualties of the madness in a particularly compelling shot posted below.
We hurried away from the scene approximating Kevin Costner’s Waterworld and pushed past the pavilion towards the giant Toad. Because Kostume Kult had brought Toad, the mobile DJ booth/lighting rig/dance party. Masterminded by DK & Boris, the Toad was pumping out jams while kids ran through costumes to put on, and people got their pictures taken in a replica of the Iron Thone. Because Kostume Kult has a replica of the Iron Throne. I’m not sure when this happened but I really would’ve loved to have been at the “acquire Iron Thone” burner planning meeting.
We continued on, following the maddeningly long hopscotch chalk drawing (which, really, who the heck got there at 2 AM and drew out miles of hopscotch boxes on the ground?) that pathed through the areas and found ourselves being drawn to some decadent beats and bass coming from the other side of the treeline on the green. We came upon the Blackbird sound system/bus. While you can probably find a dozen pictures of the bus elsewhere, I think this shot probably didn’t get captured anywhere else.
The bus had a hilly dance floor dotted with hoopers, poi-ers and a dude typing on a type-writer. Like, an actual type-writer, and grooving to the music. One of the amazing things about FIGMENT was seeing all of the cool people from the scene out in the daytime. Seeing their outfits in natural light, sharing a meal with them, feeding the chicken & goats with them. That’s right! There was also a composting/animal education area, with actual live things. You know what’s fun to do after dancing to breaks & house? Picking up chickens & feeding goats. I had no idea, but hey, you learn something new every day.
We wandered back around towards the sound, aqua fun and food, passing a super cool forest clearing of tiny circus/medieval tents while garage played softly in the background. The kids & adults were having an absolute blast and this continued exploration with mindful and participatory art was just the next example of how needed and awesome this project was.
As we munched on some food and drank a beer in the segmented off 21+ area with the one vendor that had alcohol, we saw the yuppies playing mini-golf, the tree house being explored by young lovers, families and ravers and a good time being had by all. So glad to have been there and can’t wait for next year. Congratulations all around to everyone involved, from the hourly volunteer to the camp & project organizers. Gotham loves you and is better for you. It was time for dinner before seeing an old friend take control of a Gotham City institution.
All Photos Provided by Sarita McDaniel Dyer