Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Making sense of Fort Day


New Urban Arts is an amazing place. duh.

That's why I work here, it's why I freaking up and moved here. Almost every day here is, as cheesy as it sounds, filled with an atmosphere of love and magic that despite the many amazing places I have worked, I have not found too often. Any of you that know me personally, know that these aren't words that I just throw around in my every day conversation.

But there was something especially incredible about Fort Day that I'm trying to figure out.

Looking at these pictures again gives me goosebumps. It was part of spirit week, organized by Noel, a New Urban Arts students who's high school doesn't have a spirit week so he launched one in our studio. It's always a funny thing when youth and artists in our studio adopt/adapt traditions and rituals associated with larger more traditional institutions (churches, public high schools etc etc) that in many ways, New Urban Arts exists in opposition to/protest of (or at the very least to model alternative practices for those institutions). I think of this adoption as forms of subversive acts. We've done this with our all-night art lock-in, which is something I've always associated with church and youth groups and many of the religious traditions I've personally chosen to walk away from. Our first lock-in was actually proposed by a young person who had been active in her church and wanted New Urban Arts to do our version of a lock-in. It's now grown into a giant youth-led/organized annual tradition that youth look forward to every year. A lock-in with no Jesus our saving of souls.

So we had our version of spirit week, which was a great week, Food day, mentor day, stuffed animal day, it was all great. But something clicked especially well for folks on Fort Day and I can't put my finger on it but here is my first try at it:

Fearlessness. Pure, unadulterated, gleefull, joyful creation with no barriers, fears or pressure. No fancy supplies needed, everyone just grabbed whatever crap (and we have a lot of crap) that was lying around in the studio and from our basement and just started building, tying, and stacking. Like a jazz improvisation or a latin descarga everyone just started building, responding to one other organically and these bizarre but beautiful structures gradually materialized in the middle of the studio. And as chaotic as the process was, there was still something poetic and seamless about how things started to materialize at the same time. I really can't put words around it. All I heard was laughter. People's eyes were lit up in ways even more than usual here. Look at the pictures...

A chance to revert back to our most basic childhood impulses.
Tearing cushions off our couches, stacking branches in the park, tying bedsheets together, how many of our first creative experiences may have just been stacking crap in our house as small children and crawling through them? Who teaches us to do that? We just did it. To relive that in our studio, which is essentially a giant art clubhouse, is like reliving that early childhood experience but on steroids.

A very basic universal human impulse is being triggered here, the need, impulse to build shelter but in a creative artistic context? Where does shelter fall in Maslow's hierarchy of needs? Where does the need to make "art?" Are they anywhere near each other? Maybe there is something here in his interaction (contradiction?) when the pure basic functionality of shelter is crossed with the beautifully absurdist/dadaist exercise of making forts from scraps at New Urban Arts?

I don't maybe it was some of those things, all of those things, none of those things. Anyone that was there, I really would love your thoughts.

All I know is that I'm pretty sure something special happened that day and I'm still trying to figure out how to put words to it...

48 Comments:

Blogger _ said...

D.I.T. (Do it together)

Everyone worked together on this one. Is this a NUA first?

6:12 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

There was a great sense of togetherness, or maybe things all working at the same time. But not everyone came together on this, there were actually 3 separate forts. And two mentoring arts groups actually just kept on doing what they were doing and chose not to participate in the forts at all. But the forts-building didn't seem to bug them at all. There was something about how it all "worked" in the space though.

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