14th St. was a bit wilder and way more entertaining than usual last weekend, as over 60 performance and installation artists set up shop from Avenue C to the Hudson River under the auspices of AIOP: Art In Odd Places. The theme was ‘NORMAL’ and the stepping-off point was a quote from the poet, humanitarian and social justice activist Sonya Renee Taylor, displayed prominently on the AIOP website: “We will not go back to normal. Normal never was.”
The festival, which ran Friday, Saturday and Sunday, was curated by Furusho von Puttkammer took the better part of a year to organize. Yasmeen Abdallah, a curatorial assistant, was grateful for the task. “It gave us some hope during an awful year,” she said.
Participants ranged from scripted performances to interactive happenings, all designed to provoke thought as well as entertain. An anonymous figure covered completely in white, the perfectly named Blanksy, invited passersby to spray paint him for a performance titled “Spray Da Man!”. Ariel Kleinberg engaged onlookers in improvised rituals designed to ” question what it is Americans truly worship.” Surrounded by figures that she created inspired by Greek mythological demons, she reflected on the impact of her performance. ” I wasn’t trying to be dark or sinister,’ she explained,” but some people got scared.”
Akiko Ichikawa thoughtfully provided dog owners with materials meant to clean up their pets’ poop – pages from books written by Ivanka Trump. “There’s so much focus on Donald,” Ichikawa noted. “People are forgetting about Ivanka’s aspirations and she is a real contender.”
Scattered amongst the rank and file garbage bags up and down 14th St. was the work of Iván Sikic, who randomly spray-painted trash bags in gold and returned them to the curbs where he found them for a performance he calls, simply, “Trashed.”
While Dada Nurses offered mental health tips, Yeseul Song guided participants in the use of her “Invisible Sculpture on Wheels,” which we experienced happily. While wearing headphones, one ‘touches’ the invisible structure and can hear the resulting sounds.
Shosha Dothan created an environment and invited artists to collaborate with her, a different one each day. On Sunday Jiwon Rhie created shapes on the ground with rice – in a nod to her ethnic identity – that represented “how we construct our boundaries, ” she said. “They are meant to be destroyed at the end of the day.”
KS Brewer also counted on collaboration, constructing a sound and light installation that would play the recorded voices of participants. An ongoing project, Brewer is looking forward to future contributions. “People’s willingness to share surprised me,” she relates. “Their voices make it what it is.”
Tim Cusack’s performance “I Ping The Body Electric” included a sequence where he drew a chalk outline around his body in the middle of a few strategically placed, somewhat realistic phalluses, causing ” some parents to drag their children away,” he noted. But a performance about sexuality, aging and HIV is bound to be challenging for some.
Easily the most intense performance was that of GOODW.Y.N., an African-American woman whose body does not conform to conventional standards of beauty. Titled “Ain’t I a Woman (?/!)”, she would sit quietly on the ground in Union Square, clad only in leggings, fake blood and sometimes a tattered American flag, periodically proclaiming: “I too am America”, “Hands Up Don’t Shoot”, “Black women can only rest in the grave” and “America is covered in blood,” among other provocative statements. The responses ranged from praise to physical anger, which she dealt with but did not dwell on. “The thing I’m still wrapping my head around is the man who called me a prophet, ” she admitted. “He said that a prophet is not someone who predicts tomorrow, it is someone who tells the truth today.”
A full list of the artists and their works is online at artinoddplaces.org