WRMC Collaborative & Seth Taylor @ People in Space

Boston- based artist, Jeff Huckleberry uses the phrase “Success in Failure” to define his practice. This idea has always resonated with me because it gives integrity to chance and haunted me while trying to implement surrogate pieces at the World Expo.   Some of the actions that we curated into “What Are We Waiting For?” were unable to transcend the circumstances present at the Expo without some finessing. This challenged us to take a certain level of creative license to ensure that the work could be produced in a way that would honor its original concept.   Fear of failing the artists in some way kept me driven to find a way to make these works a reality. It was this urge that helped in finding success in creating an authentic solution to implementing the works that didn’t fit easily into the conditions of the Expo.

line for China Pavilion

line for China Pavilion

People in Space focused our project on waiting lines. We soon discovered that we did this for an event hosted within a culture where many do not abide by queuing etiquette.  This provided infinite challenges for several of the pieces we were trying to bring to fruition, particularly, WRMC Collaborative’s “Perpetual Waiting.” Artist duo, Alexia Mellor and Andrew Y. Ames asked us to offer ourselves as placeholders for people in line while they took a break from the often tiresome action of waiting.  The cattle-like barricades that encased people in lines caused a physical obstacle, but the mentality around waiting in this environment created an even larger barrier.  No one wanted to give up any piece of their real estate in the Expo Lines, making it impossible to execute this portion of the piece. The other part of the piece was to offer Expo goers to sign up at the Project Soya website to have WRMC Collaborative wait for something for them. This was also tricky due to the language barrier and the nature of the philosophical request.  We spent days searching for people who were willing to question waiting as an idea, not just an action. Below is the list we collected from Expo goers of what they wanted WRMC to wait for and their expected duration for the waiting:

Justin Timberlake

6 hours

Upside down pizza to fall

2 hours

Opportunity to tour around the USA

2 hours

Free T shirts

3 hours

Soccer Match

2 days

Autograph of someone who is famous and has a good personality

6 hours at most

Nelson Mandela

4 hours

Wait for an answer

4 hours

Wait to hear from God

3 days

Wait for a map

5 hours

Seth Taylor @ People In Space from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Seth Taylor proposed several ways for us to orchestrate a human DNA strand with the bodies in line. The physical limitations of the line and the chaos that erupted during the periods of waiting, made this piece also feel impossible. One of the most humbling experiences of being at the Expo was the massive amount of people present. How could we effectively utilize this volume and give justice to this action through the unanticipated barriers? On one of our final days at the expo, we agreed to activate one of the massive crowds by running in the shape of DNA through a public space. Although we were unable to use a multitude of bodies to make the shape, this action forced the people around us to consider their corporeality within the space of the Expo.

The WRMC Collaborative (Andrew Y. Ames and Alexia Mellor) is a nutrient-rich endeavor delivering high-quality, sweet and savory experiences that infuse the ingredients of humor and play into simple recipes. Through a combination of performance art and game design, WRMC aims to create unexpected alternative ways of experiencing the everyday that invite critical reflection on notions of consumerism, technology and globalization. The artists have been featured in the Providence Journal, the Boston Globe, the Boston Phoenix and ArtDaily as up and coming artists to watch, and have exhibited their work nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include 8 Bits Per Pixel and 55 Soya at MEME Gallery, Cambridge, MA; New England Photography Biennial at the Danforth Museum of Art; Pixilerations at 5 Traverse Gallery in Providence, RI; Axiom Gallery, Boston; and upcoming shows at Festival International en Arts à Montréal and Boston Cyberarts 2011.

Seth Taylor has built a career around innovation and entrepreneurship in the life sciences. Seth spent the last five years working at TSG Partners, a corporate advisory firm that focuses on strategic growthstrategies and M&A for the life science market, where he was instrumental in delivering strategic growth plans and strategic mandates for integrated healthcare, diagnostic, and life science tool companies. Seth also spent several years focused on genomics and proteomics business development at Packard BioScience Company, a leading life sciences hardware and reagents vendor. At Packard, Seth closed numerous licensing deals with both university and corporations, lead marketing efforts, performed intellectual property reviews, closed distribution partnerships, and developed business plans for both spin out companies and new products.  Seth has also established a track record as an entrepreneur. In addition to founding Vectur, Seth was a founder of Molecularware, Inc., a software company based in Cambridge, MA, that marketed workflow data management products to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. This company was also the winner of the MIT Entrepreneurship competition. In addition to his business pursuits, Seth founded and manages a popular networking event for life science professionals called BiotechTuesday.  Seth holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in molecular biology and an SM in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

People In Space implements Surrogate Backscratching & Footprint Collecting

People in Space has been on site at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai for the past week implementing surrogate creative actions.  We have had an audience of several thousand people experiencing ephemeral art in a largely ephemeral space.

The expo as a whole is crawling with people; the majority are Chinese who are interested in experiencing the spectacle of the Expo. We have encountered several challenges through the language barrier, but also through cultural references that simply do not translate.

Surrogate Backscratching

James Ellis Coleman asked us to offer to scratch the backs of people waiting in line and to encourage them to pass this favor on to their neighbors. This solicitous and somewhat innocent gesture speaks to the idea of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”. This saying does not translate into Chinese culture. The closest is the phrase is “If you give me a peach, I can give you a plum in return.” Because of this loss in translation, our audience was fairly willing to receive scratching, but was hesitant to scratch our backs or the backs of others. Out of the approximate 70 backs that we scratched in the waiting line at the US Pavilion, only 2 people returned the favor, however this exchange was both playful and well received. Watch the video documentation from this piece HERE.

Another challenge has been the fact that we are enacting these pieces Guerilla style, requiring us to be inconspicuous amongst the heightened security present at the Expo.

This created a bit of creative maneuvering to implement Julia Wagner’s piece, “Urban Footprints”.  This action ideally involved creating a stop-motion film documenting the accumulation of a line’s footprints clouding up a bolt of grey silk.  Julia asked us to invite each person waiting in line to walk one-at-a-time across the cloth. This was also another impossibility, since many of the people waiting in line do not wait at all, pushing aggressively through to get closer to the Pavilion’s entrance. When people do wait in the queue it is rarely single-file. Upon our departure of the US Pavilion, we were filtered into a high traffic area that Expo goers were using for the perfect photo op.

Photo Op

Overflow from a fountain created puddles that endless people walked through, creating a series of footprints on the asphalt. This was an opportunity to adapt Wagner’s piece. We captured the accumulation of wet footsteps for over an hour through time-lapse video that can be viewed HERE.

James Ellis Coleman is a mixed-media artist working in Boston.  He received his MFA from Massachusetts College of Art.  He believes: “Every Artist is charged with the capacity to entertain, challenge, and enthrall one or all of our senses. No one can alter past deeds, but we can help change the regrettable consequences of those deeds. Our deeds today will shape the past we leave for the future.”

Julia Wagner has lived and worked in Boston since graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 2008.  She illustrates themes of anthropomorphism, post-modernism, and simple aesthetics with her sculpture and drawings.  Julia also builds performance into her studio practice by seeking out meditative yet socially engaging work, like that of interning with the Sol Lewitt Retrospective fabrication team.  In all of these efforts, she seeks to promote elementary school values in conjunction with the sophistication required for critical contemporary art.