Visual Arts » Public

Acting Out in Public

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If you're headed to Market Street this Friday and Saturday, please watch out for the backwards-walking man with the silver spoon. If you're not careful, you might run into him or he might run into you. But even if a body collision occurs, don't expect him to break out of character.

Through this weekend's Art in Odd Places (AiOP) Indianapolis, Rory Golden will walk backward with the help of a rear-view spoon. As Duty Free Ranger, from dusk till down, he'll move around the event's downtown, open-air setting. In his piece, Golden explores culture, class and privilege, fantasy and freedom through the transmogrification of his character into other characters such as a baton twirler. "People who see me twirling think that I am really good, but if you are a professional baton twirler, you know that I am not that good!" Golden says, promising passersby a fun awakening from their daily routine. And it's a piece that is typical of AiOP's public-space art antics.

Rory Golden's Duty Free Ranger character combines the fanciness of a historical dandy with the responsibilities of a park ranger, including citation issuing. - COURTESY OF RORY GOLDEN
  • Courtesy of Rory Golden
  • Rory Golden's Duty Free Ranger character combines the fanciness of a historical dandy with the responsibilities of a park ranger, including citation issuing.

AiOP comes to the Circle City thanks to the efforts of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Big Car and other organizations that believe that it is time to take the art party outside. For years, Indy's art scene has been thriving on certain avenues behind the gallery and studio doors in our cultural districts, but with the advent of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick, the city has shown an increasing interest for public and accessible art.

At AiOP, people are invited to join in the creative process with the help of several professional artists who will bring works from their studios to the streets from dawn to dust both days. Their open concept outdoor "galleries" will be up and down Market Street, from City Market to Monument Circle. A variety of performances and interactive sculptures promise engagement for people of all ages. Not to be missed will be locally beloved Know No Stranger's Pigeon Business in which three costumed dapper pigeon-men hybrids will toss bread crumbs at people for a change. But Indianapolis will also welcome visiting artists such as Indian-born artist Jagrut Raval, who will creatively mount his work Swarming Time on various building along Market Street. They will be studded with hundreds of ticking clock mechanisms to remind us of the fragility of the present.

Chicago native DeMarcus Purham' will draw on the plexiglass box that encases him for his Artist in a Box performance piece. - SHEPRICE TOWNSEND
  • Sheprice Townsend
  • Chicago native DeMarcus Purham' will draw on the plexiglass box that encases him for his Artist in a Box performance piece.

The urban environment lends artists a playful opportunity for using people's surroundings in ways that feel new and surprising, especially for those who walk this same route daily. Design artist DeMarcus Purham will highligh this aspect in his piece Artist in a Box. The Chicago native has been training for his performance where he will reside inside a plexiglass box for 24 hours, drawing the city landscape of Indianapolis, "I want to change the pace of what architectural or cityscape art means or is perceived in society," he says.

AiOP invites artists to approach art-making in an interactive way, using public spaces, under the theme FREE. "I believe art-making starts with a question, and it's a very interesting idea," Raval says, asking, "What is free? What is free will? Being a part of a community, can we really consider ourselves free?"

Artist Brian Muzik considered the theme for a long time and came up with his art piece Take-A-Penny/Leave-A-Penny, a large penny tray that will be filled with the actual coins. Participants are also invited to choose how they want to interact with the sculpture. Muzik thinks this interaction will be key for the interpretation of his work, as his choice in subject matter is meant to symbolize one of the few ways left where people give without expecting something in return. "Little things like this in public that remind us of the kind of people that we want to be; it reminds us that generosity is important," he says.
Know No Stranger's Pigeon Business offers AiOP visitors the chance to get nose-to-beak with "winged rats." - COURTESY OF KNOW NO STRANGER
  • Courtesy of Know No Stranger
  • Know No Stranger's Pigeon Business offers AiOP visitors the chance to get nose-to-beak with "winged rats."

Herron Sculpture professor Lesley Baker's art piece Growth will also challenge ideas of generosity and the choices we make in how we interact with art. Her piece consists of materials that have been recycled to look like flowers and butterflies. With a magnet on the back, the audience is invited to play with the placement of the urban flora and fauna -- even if it means they will go home with the people who move them around.

Such generosity is something that has been thriving in the art scene of Indianapolis, however bringing it outside and celebrating it will help bring awareness to others who aren't aware of the steady transformation the city has been going through. "Indy is such a vibrant place, but it still has a lot of people who feel like nothing is going on," says Michael Runge, a found member of Know No Stranger. "AiOP is helping to bring a lot of what makes the city exciting right to the people right on the street."

Runge believes that events such as AiOP can create an audience for more events where Indianapolis becomes the artists' stage, "It will be a great way for people to get a taste and get a craving for more," he says. "I'm also hoping that it shows people a little of what is possible here."

The idea of showcasing art in a variety of ways is something that local artists Luke Crawley and Quincy Owens considered while making their submission for AiOP, which consists of cardboard sculptures that will be strategically placed to emit electronic tones based on their locations. "A key component to growing the arts in a city is to support them in a variety of ways," Owens says. "Friday especially should be very interesting with all of the business people downtown, all doing their typical routine ... then it will slowly transition to Friday evening and the weekend crowd and then even more so on Saturday when the expected crowd of viewers is likely to be there." Likewise, Crawley believes that public art is essential to the growth of city culture, "It starts a conversation about public art with new people who haven't thought about it before, and it keeps the public art landscape growing ... which will provide more opportunities in the future."

Melissa Steckbauer's Free Now offers passersby the chance to interact as they touch, see and react to ribbons hanging over the sidewalk. - MELISSA STECKBAUER
  • Melissa Steckbauer
  • Melissa Steckbauer's Free Now offers passersby the chance to interact as they touch, see and react to ribbons hanging over the sidewalk.

Artist Melissa Steckbauer's Free Now will engage the audience through touch. People will be encouraged to walk through hundreds of hanging ribbons that are meant to transform the urban environment in more ways than the obvious ones. This is not just bringing art to the streets, as the art ties the audience into the city in a way that is simply not possible in a gallery.

Contact improvisation dancer, Stephanie Nugent will also incorporate public "audience" participation in unusual ways, as her artwork relies on the interaction between environment and artist.

"The fact that the audience is all around us means that we are really responding to the audience energetically, we are responding to what we see in the environment; people passing by, people watching, the weather," Nugent explains. "It is not meant to be seen in a theater; it is something that is meant to be shared and experienced."

This Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. both days, there will be more than 20 performances happening simultaneously. The Art in Odd Places festival is free, and regardless of previous commitments, you are guaranteed a front seat to the best of local and visiting artist performances. Along with entertaining performances, AiOP brings Indianapolis the challenge to re-discover the way we freely experience our city -- through a rearview spoon, through the eyes of a city landscape lover, through the sounds of ticking clocks, and by giving or taking a penny. No doubt the hashtag #AiOP is going to blow up all over Instagram this weekend.

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