Islanders to Showcase Participatory Art at Figment Festival

May 31, 2019

Many Islanders and Island organizations heeded the call from Figment NYC, the two-day free participatory arts event being held here this weekend, to submit their art for consideration and will be among the 90 installations lining the Island's west promenade.


Figment celebrates creativity, and appreciates art that encourages participants to play, dance, sing, create, engage, experiment, and explore their environment, perfect for our multi-talented community. The organizers sought submissions from all artists regardless of age and experience. The festival will be held on Roosevelt Island for the first time, after being on Governor’s Island since its inception.


The Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance (MST&DA) will be performing The Monkey King, the musical written by Jonathan and Kimbirdlee Fadner, on Sunday starting at 5pm at Lighthouse Park.


Starting that day at 11:00 and going until 3:00pm at the prow of the ship near the Octagon building, they will host an interactive Monkey King theatrical experience. Festival goers will be invited to act out scenes, learn and perform songs, and try some of the original costumes that were created for the MST&DA Children's Theatre program in 2018, when The Monkey King premiered on Roosevelt Island. In keeping with Figment’s principles that nothing is for sale, they will offer giveaways to courageous participants, including pins and stickers.


 Figment installation, Niti Parikh


Niti Parikh, the Creative Lead at Cornell Tech’s MakerLAB describes her installation as an “automaton which is designed with the idea of exposing curious minds to the simple mechanics of our everyday machines.” Parikh's material of choice is recycled cardboard, a material not new to her.


In fact, she says, “I have been fascinated by recycled and found objects since I was a child. I have been known for my collection of rocks and picking up random pieces of metal scraps from the urban streets of India, California and now New York City.” When she first launched NP Studio, in she designed a line of products, Happy Cardboards, that were made out of recycled cardboard harvested from various businesses in Berkeley and Oakland area.


She says she encourages her students at the MakerLAB at Cornell Tech to use recycled cardboard to create their prototypes before moving on other materials. She has also created a tool kit for middle school students to begin any challenge based learning project with recycled materials.


Parikh who inspired two Cornell Tech students to participate, Natalie Friedman and David Goedicke, has enjoyed the process thus far. “It has been a great experience working with this group of volunteer architects, artists, and design students all working towards bringing this free event to all.”


Friedman, who says, “I have always loved the human figure and believe that everyone has a unique style when depicting the human figure,”  will be inviting festival attendees to join her in making a collaborative mural. She says, “I invite everyone to paint the profile of their friends, themselves or a stranger on top of the abstract painting.” Friedman will have already pre-painted an abstract painting inspired by Richard Deibenkorn and Helen Frankenthaler, her favorite artists.  


A previous project of Goedicke's used leap motion or kinect controllers. He says,
"In this piece we borrow heavily from this past legacy."


PhD candidate, Goedicke’s project is an open experimentation platform that will allow guests experiment with behavior rules and visually explore the subsequent outcomes. Past Projects include this one. He says he finds inspiration from Boid simulations that replicate the behavior of flocks of birds, the game of life, and Neural Nets, a computer system modeled on the human brain and nervous system.


From the Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association, four artists will be participating, sculptor Victoria Thorson, Carolee BonGiorno, Thom Heyer and Anna Eppel. Heyer's will be uniquely Roosevelt Island and will focus on two famed women who spent time on Roosevelt Island. Singer-songwriter, Alberta Hunter gave up her musical career to pursue nursing, became a nurse at Goldwater Memorial Hospital and moved to Roosevelt Island for the next 20 years until she retired in 1977. She then returned to singing with regular gigs in the West Village, until her death in 1984. Hunter, a black woman, lived to be 89 years old.


 Thom Heyer, featuring Alberta Hunter and Mae West, the subjects of his installation


In 1927 infamous entertainer, Mae West was sentenced to ten days in prison at the women's workhouse on Roosevelt Island on charges of public obscenity for her play, Sex, on Broadway. She was famously allowed to wear her silk panties instead of the scratchy prison-issue undergarments. West, a white woman, lived to be 87 years old.


Heyer's project asks what conversations might these two women have had if they had met


Open Doors, the Coler Hospital based arts and justice initiative, will be performing in front of five murals that will ultimately be the backdrop for Fade, a play they wrote alongside Joel Francis. Between 2:00-5:00pm on both Saturday and Sunday they’ll be set up in front of the white tent outside Coler Hospital and depending on the make-up of the crowd will perform poetry, storytelling, hip-hop or spoken word.


A Mexican doll from Regina de la Concha’s installation


Island resident Regina de la Concha’s installation is all inclusive and all day long, both days. There will be Mexican dolls made out of cloth standing in front of a metal wall. Participants will wear headbands, like the dolls, and sit between the dolls, to feel like one. There may also be hair braiding. She is very excited.


Tickets are only necessary if you’ll be going to the main space at Lighthouse Park. They are available here. Note, the event will take place rain or shine. (But thus far, no rain is in the forecast).


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