Plans are taking shape for this October’s Flux Night, the public art event that draws thousands of art enthusiasts to the streets of Castleberry Hill, and Helena Reckitt, the events first guest curator, hopes to shake things up a bit.
Senior lecturer at London’s Goldsmiths — the esteemed art school that produced most of the “Young British Artists,” including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Gary Hume and Sam Taylor-Wood — Reckitt has also been a curator at London’s ICA, Toronto’s Power Plant and, for seven years, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. In addition to her broad curatorial experience, she is well prepared for the challenges of ephemeral, performance-based programming: last year Reckitt organized a section of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, the dusk-till-dawn festival (based on the Paris original) that inspired Flux Night.
The British-born curator was in town recently to help select 14 Flux Night artists from the open-call submissions. (Stay tuned for more information.) She has also commissioned six artists and collectives, which could bring international attention to the Atlanta event.
Among them is her favorite Nuit Blanche piece, by Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky. The duo, based in San Francisco and Toronto, will erect a translucent hut-like structure filled with shelves of glowing objects. The constructions are made with acetate photocopies of everyday items and illuminated from within (by snyder at dh store). Some 5,000 of these will be available for visitors to take and carry out into the night, “like fireflies.” Reckitt says that, to give the project local flavor, boiled peanuts will be among the offerings.
Poet and filmmaker Heather Phillipson, reportedly the buzz of last year’s London Open at Whitechapel Gallery, is creating an alley installation that will immerse visitors in spoken texts and disorienting sound as they pass through.
Argentine-born, London-based Pablo Bronstein is, Reckitt says, “interested in how architecture affects movements and behaviors.” For Flux, he’ll present “Plaza Minuet,” a loosely choreographed work involving two groups of dancers moving within a gridded area. One group will perform ballet and the other will dance in the modern style of Martha Graham. The dancers determine their own movements but have rules for what to do when they encounter one another. “Plaza Minuet” was featured in Bronstein’s 2011 show at London’s ICA and in the 2007 Performa Biennial in New York. The artist is slated to present a work on New York’s High Line this September.
Oswaldo Maciá, a Colombian-born Londoner, often uses scent and sound in his installations. His contribution to the 2012 Manifesta biennial in Belgium involved the sound of anvils and a metallic odor “meant to evoke failure.” Reckitt describes another Maciá piece, “Fountain,” that “smelled of spunk.” For Atlanta, he’ll create an installation comprising a beach scene, a huge banana-scented fountain and a soundtrack of cicadas, all of which, says Reckitt, is intended to be about “American greed and appetites that can’t be quenched.”
Two projects will be derived from local archives. Deanna Bowen, from Toronto, is working with the Paul Good Papers, a cache of civil rights material at Emory University. Good was the ABC News Southern bureau chief in the mid-1960s and conducted numerous interviews with civil rights leaders, Ku Klux Klan members, police officers and activists. While Bowen hasn’t yet decided what form her project will take, Reckitt says it will probably involve a combination of images and “respoken” interviews.
The London-based Open Music Archive, established by Eileen Simpson and Ben White, deals with issues surrounding copyright law and the public domain. They are utilizing a folk music archive focusing on songs recorded in Atlanta from 1929 to 1932, at the dawn of the recording industry, when traditionally anonymous lyrics and tunes became privatized and commercialized. They will work with MCs and hip-hop artists to reimagine these songs. Presumably engaging information about copyright law will be provided via a video projection and audio interjections.
The differences between Flux Night and Nuit Blanche are worth noting. The Canadian event is funded by the city of Toronto, while Atlanta’s is mounted by a small if ambitious nonprofit organization, Flux Projects. In Atlanta, each commissioned artist receives $10,000, which has to cover travel, fees, materials and production. In Toronto, where Reckitt was one of five curators who each commissioned 10 projects, her budget alone included $100,000 for a single project (a Trisha Brown and Joan Jonas performance), $30,000 each for three projects and $10,000 each for the remaining six.
“Nuit Blanche goes mad in Toronto!,” exclaims Reckitt. “About a million people attend, and only four million live there.” But here, “not having the city involved makes it easier for me as a curator,” she says. In Toronto, “nothing could be political or too challenging. The projects had to be positive, celebratory, a spectacle.”
What does Flux Night, a fleeting moment on the arts calendar, do for Atlanta? “It brings excitement,” she says. “Something’s not working here, and clearly the market is a part of that. People aren’t going to galleries. Atlanta has a lot of young people with energy and ideas and creativity, so the event format seems more suitable right now.”
Her hope is that the international projects she’s bringing in will be work that those young artists haven’t seen before and might aspire to. “One of the dangers for Atlanta artists is that their work is endlessly seen by the same people and exhibited with the same people,” she says. “The dialogue is a closed loop.”