In Flux

By Roberta Fallon
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 20, 2009

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A scene from Oliver Herring's work.

Although tropical storm Hanna did her best to discourage them, art lovers poured into North Philly's FLUXspace on Saturday night, where hundreds of people gathered to collectively create in a public art event. The mastermind behind it all was the German-born Oliver Herring, a New York artist known for his art Task sessions--he's hosted them across the country. Herring was present Saturday night, tasking and videotaping. At one point he was called on to "marry" two people. 

At the press preview, FLUX co-founder Josh Kerner told me the organization hoped to host a thousand people at this year's event, up from last year's 350. While they didn't quite hit that mark, attendance appeared to be up. The crowd's exuberance and the focused chaos of creation and activities seemed at least as manic as last year.

An increased number of neighborhood children and parents were in attendance at this year's Task, a surprising and significant difference from 2007. In a videotaped "Letter to the Press," Herring proclaimed, "This year is going to be better and bigger. Not that size matters, but in this case it does." A poor neighborhood turnout would indicate failure in this bridge-building art event.

Not every alternative space can or should seek nonprofit status but FLUX--which will have its status soon--is a perfect candidate for several reasons. They're so clear in their mission to show experimental art and to make art with the community, a philosophy also held by Herring, a midcareer artist. The young group's future as an alternative community art center is attainable.

Funding for Task 2 came from several public sources this year including University of the Arts, PA Council on the Humanities and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Next summer FLUX hopes to have a free video camp for neighborhood children--an ambitious goal based on this summer's weekend video workshops that proved the children were interested and motivated. Hope Street Shorts, the childrens' videos that ran on a monitor at Task 2, are a great beginning--and have all the earmarks of the Herring/FLUX collaborations: inventive, risk-taking and meaningful.

These New York and Philadelphia artists are changing the city's art scene by giving young artists and curators an example to follow and a place to let 'er rip. Better still, they're changing a neighborhood by using experimental art practice. The ephemeral participatory art that is Task 2 is a grounds-up approach that's the art equivalent of teaching a man to fish. Public art can be murals, sure. But this self-empowering public art deserves the support of the city, the foundations and educational institutions, and it's great to see the artists got some. Keep it coming. 

For more on the Philadelphia art scene go to http://fallonandrosof.blogspot.com

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