Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

David Koren for Figment Project 2010

The Art in Odd Places 2010 festival recently concluded. It was such a delight to see our artists infusing their works along the stretch of 14th Street. Please check our Facebook group and Flickr page to see pictures from the festival.

Although the festival just ended, Art in Odd Places recognizes the need to acknowledge other festivals, especially in New York City, that share the credo in making art accessible. A few months ago, Governor’s Island was transformed into a a great art space for “Figment NYC 2010“. The vision of the festival is to “celebrate the abundance of creativity and passion, challenging artists and our communities to find ways to create, share, and dream.”. What is so interesting about this festival is the emphasis on participation, where people are encouraged to interact with the art works. It is literally bringing the arts closer to the intended recipient. It is through festival like Figment that bring the word “accessibility” to whole different level.

Art in Odd Places reached out to David Koren, Executive Producer and Founder for Figment to share his thoughts about Figment and a few other questions, including his emphasis on participatory art

David Koren,Founder and Executive Producer at Figment

Aiop: This year’s event was definitely a huge success. How was this year’s Figment different from the previous ones?
DK: Well, after four years, it really does seem that we are part of the cultural landscape in New York City, and people know about Figment and what we stand for. This year’s Figment event had nearly 25,000 participants, over 10,000 more than last year, who engaged with 400 art projects. And we estimate that our summer-long minigolf course, sculpture garden, and pavilion will be visited by approximately 75,000 people this summer. Aside from the growth in terms of number of participants and visitors, we also believe we are growing in terms of the overall quality of the projects we create, and the skill of the artists who bring work to Figment.

Aiop: What is the ultimate goal of Figment?
DK: In a word, participation. We want everyone to participate and to create a deep and engaging experience for everyone through participation and collaboration. We would like to see every single person who comes to Governors Island bringing something to share, some way to engage with others. We believe that participation creates community, brings us all closer together, and in this way is a vehicle for personal and social transformation.

Aiop: You mentioned the parallelism between Burning Man and Figment. Could you speak more about this?
DK: Figment is inspired and influenced by Burning Man, but is not linked to Burning Man in any official way. The founders of Figment view our event and projects as a way to share the principles that we have learned from Burning Man with a broader audience: Participation, Decommodification, Inclusion, Self-Expression, Self-Reliance, Giving, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leave No Trace, and Immediacy. The influence goes both ways… Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey has said that the 2010 Burning Man theme, “Metropolis,” was inspired by his trip to New York and Figment in June 2009. We see Figment as an evolution of the principles of Burning Man brought out into the public realm.


Aiop: Figment‘s work is driven entirely by volunteers. How important is it to build not only a strong Figment community but also building relationship within the public art community?
DK: We’re all about relationships, and building as broad a community around participatory public art and Governors Island as we can. We have built strong relationships with groups concerned with the arts, design, sustainability, Governors Island, our waterfronts, etc. We believe that public art is art that is created by and for the public, and we welcome partnerships with any organizations that share this view.

Aiop: It seems that Figment is really big on the idea of participatory art, the ability to interact with the work as oppose to merely seeing it. Tell us more about this.
DK: Participation is what we’re all about. It’s at the heart of what we do, and what sets us apart from other arts organizations. We resist the idea of the artist as a singular genius who is ordained by the cultural elite. We believe that we are all creative, that we all have the capacity to make art, and that if we work together we can create things that no one of us could have created in isolation. Every one of our projects involves participation or interaction in some way. Through this focus, we seek to bring the moment of creation as close as possible to the present moment. Think about most art you see in a museum or gallery: it likely was created by someone else, who you’ve never met, a long time ago in a faraway place. It couldn’t be much further away from you and your experience. By focusing on collaboration and participation, we’re bringing the moment of creation, the moment when the creator says, “Aha! I’ve got it!” as close as possible to the present time and place. Art isn’t something that has to be created in isolation in a studio. Art can be the experience that we’re creating together, right now.

Aiop: Anything you would like say to Art in Odd Places as its 6th annual festival just recently concluded
DK: Art in Odd Places does a great job creating a more democratic arts experience for the people of New York City. Keep up the great work! I think it’s important to consider, as I know you guys do, just how engaging a work of art is… Is the art just about going somewhere and looking at it, or does it reach out and grab you, and get you to engage with it – and to collaborate with the artists in creating a shared experience? I think that’s where the real frontiers lie in art today.

For more information about this exciting project, visit http://figmentproject.org/2010/

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