Two weekends ago, I had the privilege of participating in a weekend workshop called Material Social Practices with Fereshteh Toosi. In this workshop, we were given access to the Papermaker’s Garden to do whatever we wanted to it in three days.
We got together and discussed some theoretical considerations connected to improving public spaces. We also looked at a number of examples of public work other artists were doing, from moss graffiti to DIY blowup sculptures. After this class, I was inspired by the possibilities that were presented to us and excited to get going with the implementation of our ideas the next day.
It was time to start. We could do anything in the space, and it was now time to choose what we were going to do. Fereshtah lead us through a series of questions to generate ideas for possible projects. After that, we looked at what we had and we tried, as a community, to figure out what would be the best course of action. After five hours of discussing our possible project, we decided that we wanted to communicate that this space was used and usable. We were interested in simply activating the space to encourage the community to consider “unused” spaces as possible locations for creative expressions. We also decided to work with materials that were already on site—like rocks and gravel—and materials that we already had—like ribbon, string, and zipties. For our last hour together on Saturday, we decided to go to the Papermaker’s Garden and just begin experimenting with the materials. It was good to finally get out to the space. We split into two teams (ribbons and rocks) and started working.
We had a better idea where we were going with the piece and spent the remainder of the day finishing up our installation. People frequently stopped to ask what we were doing. Someone even took a picture for us from their highrise apartment to give us a bird’s eye view of what it looked like. We got together every once in a while to touch base and decide, as a group, what needed to get done. By 4:00pm on Sunday, we finally finished. The act of collaboration was a tremendously rewarding experience for me, and I believe through this experience I learned a few new strategies for working on creative endeavors with larger groups.