Figment 08

I say, with love in my heart, that the Figment participatory art festival on Governor’s Island was a messy thing. The woman at the information desk refused to give out maps and was obviously upset that a number of the musicians hadn’t shown up–possibly because it was supposed to (and did) rain midday. These are the hazards of artist-curated, open-call art festivals:  messy and of wildy variable quality.

At one end of the range of possibilities, a woman on a bicycle rode around recruiting participants for Planetary Dance, which turned out to be hosted in the vacant church and was a drumming circle with prayers for healing the planet (which you could make while you ran around the room, arms in the air.) When it rained, shoeless parents and kids camped on the porches of the abandoned homes, while people tromped through looking at sculptures of, for example, dentist’s casts of teeth–grinning and with pink gums–or an airplane sculpture covered in men’s lightweight grey suiting.  There was also a time capsule filled with people’s notes on life in 2008.

Somewhere in the middle there was a performance by 10 Penny Hi Top–the musicians wore paper mache animal heads and chose kids from the audience to help them out. There was an exhibition of photographs, quiet and emptily lovely, taken by two artists who had been allowed access to the island before it was open to the public. There were also scantily attended DJ tents at two places on the island.

And one of the DJs, a neuroscientist named Ed Vessel, gave a lecture on the neuroscience of art and pleasure. I thought this was the most interesting, and substantial, of what was available, but with only half an hour to talk, Dr. Vessel only had time to barely define the field of NeuroAesthetics and to explain the barest frame of his own studies (th perception of visual art.) When I find out where there is a better lecture on the same subject, I’ll certainly post it.

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