Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP 2014: FREE Sneak Peek! Stefanie Weber/Creatures of Habitat Physical Poetry Public Performance Project “Auto Mobile Body Works”

Your name/collaborative or group name: 
Stefanie Weber/Creatures of Habitat Physical Poetry Public Performance Project
Title of your project: 
Auto Mobile Body Works
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Factory Secrets from Auto Mobile Body Works, photo credit Monika Pizzichemi
What does “FREE” mean to you?
In the context of Auto Mobile Body Works and the AiOP festival, when I think about the idea of FREE I conjure up many sardonic images. Inventive, convenient, whimsical and troublesome mythological characters emitted from within our most obvious “ helping” objects, characters that can embody secret information and the everyday unfortunate results of the spectacle: the advance of a “ liberated” society through female objectification and experiments with the industrial design of the psyche and the heart. I could go on and on…
Why is 14th Street a compelling site for creative response?
I often think of Manhattan as the epitome of what Nature wouldn’t intend if it was an It that could intend. I can see it as a fascinating and enduring laboratory or a terrifying and volatile dystopia. 14th St. is of particular interest because it marks an interesting crosstown shift of the organic pathways of the village below into the grid pattern system that carries on and on and on and on above. It holds so many different kinds of people on its surfaces.
A few weeks ago I spent many hours wandering 14th St. I have never made so much time in one day for this. My experience of 14th St in the past has generally been an easily identifiable meeting place, a place of passing through, and/or a place that sparks a specific memory, or feeling of where I am in time and space (“…almost home, etc”).  During the time I spent wandering and resting in certain areas I soaked up a vast amount of perspectives that increase my interest in it as a compelling site for creative response.
I’ll share a few incomplete articulations: I sat at the feet of a woman sleeping on a bench. She wore many layers of clothing too large for her body size and too insulated for the time of year. The clothes she wore had clearly not been laundered recently or even near recently. She mumbled and rolled about on the bench, tossing a bit and kicking her feet every now and then. She snored sometimes too, deeply. Eventually she awoke, sat up, complained of the smell of dog piss and then lifted herself up from the bench and walked heavily away. On the bench where she laid remained a raw rusty razor blade that seemingly fell from one of her pockets. I used a tissue from my bag to pick it up, study it and then relocate it to the trash bin.
Across from that bench where I sat with sometimes sleepy eyes behind my dark sunglasses, I listened to a 60-something couple pass a cellphone back and forth between them as they spoke to someone on the other end. They both seemed rather invested in the relationship with the person on the other end of the line. The woman had well-applied lipstick and a definitive sprayed hair style. She held the phone to her ear, deeply engaged, presenting her points vocally, and gesturing when not holding her designer purse close to her. The man with her wore soft leather shoes and took the phone at brief increments when she handed it to him and said fewer words than she, nodded a few times, broke a smile, and then went back to staring-off and people watching while the woman continued the conversation. This went on for longer than I may have expected it would and eventually I got up and left.
In other moments: I watched a Japanese tea ceremony in a pop-up pop-art gallery underneath The High Line and I drank cool tea from a bamboo cup while a retro-hipster-anime dressed young woman walked around asking people to not take photographs of the art. A man played flute with the accompaniment of various classical recordings. It was serene and yet industrious. Most of the art on paper on the brick exposed walls occupied the typical cliche “zen” ink-stroke category of my mind and I noticed the absence of red dots beside the titles and wondered about the strategy of such an exhibition.
I stopped quickly while crossing 3rd Ave when a guy traveling on a skateboard got hit by a passing car. Everything resumed to it’s abnormal pace within a minute of his narrow escape from tragedy.
I dodged pigeon shit while sitting at a concrete table under trees in Campos Plaza and listened to the people at the other side of the space speaking Spanish.
I drank from my water bottle while a man in a tuxedo sat to play cello.
What reactions are you hoping to draw from the public?
Chin scratching, smiling, eye brow raising and furrowing, blushing, sneers, smirks. Recollections that produce curiosity or conversation with others at a later point after viewing, maybe while walking in the same space at a later time or while bathing or driving or while sitting on a subway or bus or bench.
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 Manual Transmission from Auto Mobile Body Works.  Photo Credit: Michael McKay

 

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