You know the story about the blind men and the elephant. Their descriptions of the beast depended on which part they touched. I feel that way about FLUX 2011. The experiences of those attending this year’s version of the annual arts festival, on September 30, varied greatly depending on what they saw (impossible to see everything), what time they were there and whom they ran into during their wanderings.
Because of this, we invite people who were there to tell us about your experience in the Comments section below. We will also be publishing observations from other quarters in the coming days. As for the view from my part of the elephant, it seemed to me that Flux Projects, which staged the festival, and Executive Director Anne Dennington mounted a pretty damned successful community arts event.
The parade put on by the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, with its creative do-it-yourself lanterns and participatory feeling, set the right tone. I’d like to see it last longer or recur intermittently throughout the evening, because such activity in the streets definitely gooses the energy level.
“Livers,” a roaming performance by the gloATL dance troupe (below), served that function as well. Following the dancers through the streets was a kick: Cirque du Soleil meets the running of the bulls. Crabbing and loping through the streets, swarming beneath a tree, they led observers into one of the more magical spaces of Castleberry Hill.
Their animal-like characters and misshapen Caliban costumes resonated with the grotesque creatures in Monica Cook’s projection, “Volley,” the 2011 public art piece from Atlanta Celebrates Photography. Though billed as interactive, it was not, and although I admire Cook’s imagination, this piece was almost too repulsive to watch.
If our animal nature was one theme, the end of nature was another. Both Kim Anno’s projection, “Men and Women in Water Cities,” and Eric Corriel’s “Water Will Be Here” alluded to rising seas brought on by global warming. The most spectacular of all the spectacles, “Home Sick,” a four-story 3D projection by Jeff Demetriou and Fake Love (below), added another vision of apocalypse in its chronicle of the creation and destruction of an Edenic landscape.
The festival also offered experiences of different scales and types, from perceptual to conceptual. Coming upon the vertical tubes of light floating and swaying in an alleyway — Brian Holcombe’s “Sun Chimes” — was a delight, as was Amy Rush’s peephole puppet show, “Hotel Tableau,” which spoke to our fantasies about what goes on behind closed doors. D’AIR Aerial Dance Theatre was good circus fun.
There were, of course, the disappointments. Nancy Floyd’s self-portraits deserved a better presentation. Allison Rentz’s performance with her child was pretty aimless and rather creepy — one could question the propriety of putting a child on display like a zoo animal, and way past bedtime to boot. Medeology Collective’s “Exquisite Corpse” was a high concept unfulfilled. The visitor who saw only those works could have left FLUX feeling underwhelmed.
As with a number of Atlanta’s outdoor projects, mapping and signage could be improved. It might make sense to condense the site. Some of the projects in more out-of-the-way locations got short shrift from foot-weary visitors. And speaking of foot-weary, it would be helpful to provide seating areas not connected to retail and more water stations.
The crowd, estimated at 10,000, doubled that of FLUX 2010. The downside of increased attendance was the difficulty in seeing some of the more popular or time-based works. Ultimately, however, people are as important to this kind of event as the art. The participants were diverse — multigenerational, multiracial, multisocial — yet I’d wager that most people crossed paths with someone they knew. Both are good, community-fostering things. The Castleberry Hill district, with its narrow streets, human scale and lively storefronts, set the stage for interaction, an urban experience that is not common enough in Atlanta.