Pound Sign

New York City, pop culture, art and nightlife. Because nobody else is blogging about those things.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Time well spent in Williamsburg?

This weekend I was in Williamsburg, in the beautiful early fall weather, for the 2007 Conflux Festival, a four-day event focusing on psychogeography, a term first coined in the mid-20th Century that the producers of the Festival define as "the investigation of everyday urban life through emerging artistic, technological and social practice". The Conflux producers and curators, several of whom I've been lucky enough to work with, brought together together dozens of international artists, technologists, writers, performers and thoughtful explorers of the urban experience to present a range of projects around the neighborhood's streets and sidewalks, galleries, music venues and public spaces. What I got to see barely scratched the surface of the projects presented, including a range of group and individual walking tours led by maps, guides, MP3's and strangers on the other ends of cell phones. Some of what I did see: a huge diorama by the artist Mark Stillwell taking over the Front Room Gallery, recreating a Japanese-style giant monster movie over Coney Island, all assembled from the detritus of recycled cardboard boxes and plastic bottles. The Locksmithing Institute of Conflux, a part-performance-part-philosophical lecture-part practical demonstration on how to pick handcuffs. The Trifocal Projects installations of pinhole viewers made from plastic cups wedged in chainlink fences, literally turning the views of weedy, trash-filled lots upside down. Ralph Borland and Tim Redfern's smSage, an outdoor installation of a security camera that speaks down to you, nonsensical psycho-babble in an electronic voice.

Most importantly, there was a real sense of playfulness on display in many of these projects, efforts to capture the joy of discovery or the vibrancy of sharing city spaces, but still thought-provoking; projects like Ghostbustour.com or the Sunday afternoon event I'm the most sorry I missed, the multimedia collective MTAA's attempt to run the slowest 5k ever at the McCarren Park running track-complete with official bib numbers, lawn chairs and grilled hot dogs.

There was so much more going on...if you missed it, they'll do it again next year, even bigger. But check out the website and the list of provocative projects, a lot of of them include downloadable materials and online elements that allow them to live beyond Conflux. Worth the time!


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