FLART was so much fun, and a lot of people showed up to participate, even somebody who had not ever before been affiliated with Cloud Preaser, until we had our No Beef! show, came by and brought her two kids and a friend!
Let’s start here, Cloud Preaser loves the dollar stores and Lowes Home Improvement. These two stores should probably replace all proper art stores around the country because the amount of useful material is just mind-boggling.
What did we find on one of our adventures to the dollar store? Inflatable dinosaurs! They were packaged deflated and flat and inflated to about a cubic foot or more.
Here’s how the conversation went between myself and Heidi:
Heidi: OMG! INFLATABLE DINOSAURS!
Ian: Oh yes, quite cute, let’s get a couple.
Heidi: Just a couple? They’re only a dollar!
Ian: Okay fine… erm, let’s get like, five. You pick them out. exit stage right
Heidi: heh heh
Ian: You say something?
Heidi: No. No, no.
So I went around the store looking for more stuff, found one dollar bibles and stuff and such, then calmly returned to Heidi and the dinosaurs. I kid you not, there were two baskets full of inflatable dinosaurs. Were there any left on the rack? No. None. There were sixty inflatable dinosaurs in those two baskets. We spent sixty bucks on inflatable dinosaurs that day. And believe you me; we went back for more later.
The project brought our inflatable dinosaurs and friends out to Lake Monroe one afternoon in the summer. There we drank and inflated those ridiculous dinosaurs, some of which had been used in previous projects, or lost, or stolen, so we had about fifty or sixty out there.
Using glue and tape we created a giant anamorphous blob out of our inflatables, realizing that we really should have a few hundred tiny dinosaurs for FLART II. Live and learn (and get money). In the end it was big enough to support to small children in the water and we called it a success!
Couch Surfing at the SoFA
Couch Surfing at the SoFA was another one of those hair-brained ideas we came up with more for our friends and supporters than anybody else. We all know what couch surfing is, right? Living on people’s couches for a day or two in strange places, etc. Well, artists are dumb and like to be linguistically literal. And always accept alliterations.
We went to the art shop (Lowes) and picked up something like twelve wheels that we could install on the bottom of this particularly famous sofa in our common area at the studios. Each wheel was supposed to hold about eighty pounds, so math would tell me that twelve of them could withstand something like a thousand pounds. The wheels, however, were only about an inch and a half tall. But we had twelve! It’ll work.
So we installed the wheels, all of them. It was beautiful. It moved perfectly and even smoothly. It was time to go surfing. If you’ve ever been to Indiana or Indianapolis, you’ll know how mind numbingly flat everything is. Something about a glacier. Well, that glacier never made it to Bloomington so there are hills galore to surf couches down.
Couch surfing isn’t very easy. Not much control over your trajectory when you’re standing on a couch pretending to surf. There were a lot of crashes and near car collisions, but plenty of cheers from the pre-gamers on their porches. They never knew it, probably, but they actually do love art!
It took about twenty minutes of fun for that couch to fall apart at the bottom of a hill. The frame underneath was cracked in half, the wheels were totally shot, a couple of them had definitely fallen off, and the others were half heartedly hanging on by a single screw. It was a little sad to see our creation totally demolished, but come on, ephemerality and all that.
A couple weeks later I reinforced the under frame and attached four wheels that were 5 inches tall and were designed to transport cars on platforms. That bitch’ll go anywhere, now.
Egg week was the week that ended in Easter. The plan was to do an unsolicited public sculpture every day. I think we ended up only doing a few, all of which were either destroyed or removed eventually. Our favorite piece was a perfect square of forty-nine solar lawn lights we bought at the dollar store (we love you, dollar store). We installed it in this particular spot on campus where lots of freshmen go to contemplate when they first get to the school. I know that most of us in Cloud Preaser had found ourselves there at one point or another, thinking.
We also installed another tire swing for one of the dormitories by the studios. Found it in the trash the next day :/
So Tired was an extension of the previous project So Tire Very Art where we painted and installed separate tire swings around the campus. Turns out our college campus isn’t too keen on random tire swings lying around – probably insurance concerns. Or fun concerns. The only two that were left from the week previous were in the front yards of the two art buildings near each other. One of the trees had only one good branch, but the other looked like an upside down spider. It was perfect.
We painted a few more tires and got lots and lots of rope. We brought six tires to the upside down spider tree and began installation. In the end we had six beautiful tire swings ready for super happy fun time. Our only hope was that the grad students who worked at this building wouldn’t get upset at our creation – you know how grad students can be. It turned out some of them loved it and some of them hated it, but the man in charge of the ceramics building, a great artist by the name of Malcolm Mobutu Smith, decided he loved it and that it could stay.
Heidi and Ian even brought their BFA class out for a critique of the project, even though most of the people in the class had helped with the creation and installation. We never really meant it to be malevolent, or a middle finger at art, or anything like that, but our professor seemed to really want it to be just that. To us, it was more of a “just something to do” and didn’t mean to be an insult, but our professor made some good points to the contrary. It may very well have been a bit of a middle finger to the academic nonsense we were being fed, at least on an subconscious level. The materials, the placement, the over excessiveness of six tire swings on one tree, and the open invitation of non art students to a place meant to be only for art students were all ideas our professor wanted to talk about.
I think that, at the time, Heidi and I were very frustrated with art, the art world, academia, artists and professors, and a lot of our projects were gestures againstthe status quo. Or at least, the status quo in our tiny microcosm. Splash was definitely a middle finger to the painting department, but we didn’t notice that So Tired was, too.
The best part of this project was the amount of people we would see playing on the tire swings, and the types of people who were and were not using them. I’m not sure if I ever saw any art students from that building playing on them – though I know some of them told me they had. Usually it was drunk kids walking home to their dorms. It was nice to see the faces of strangers in places that were usually full of familiar faces.
It’s been a whole year since we installed that project. Four tire swings remain!
So Tire. Very Art.
So Tire Very Art turned out to be a prelude to So Tired, though it really started as a simple painting project. We wanted to make pretty tire swings and hang them randomly on campus, but this turned out to be a bad idea as all of our hard work ended up disappearing within a day.
I’ve heard a lot of artists and professors decidedly denounce the use of tires in art these days. We all know that tires have been used in art quite a bit and especially with the sort of slacker/unmonumental aesthetics, but I’m not sure that means we need to discard the material in artistic practice. Can it really be something that can be exhausted? Think about the importance of tires, what they allow us to do, the things they carry, the types of vehicles that use them. They keep us up, they keep us safe, they transport us from A to B, ambulances need them, trailers carrying precious materials need them, etc. Don’t be afraid to use tires! They have a lot to say. Plenty of stories.
If you ever want tires for an art project – go to a professional tire replacement shop. We went in and told the manager we were artists and wanted to use tires in an art project. He gave us freedom to take as many tires as we wanted from the back. There are a lot of different tires out there… Be careful for rusty nails sticking in them, though.
Connected to the painting grad student building is an old glassed-in entrance that had been boarded up for years. Our BFA professor that semester decided that we could open it up and use it to display art as a tiny pseudo-gallery. Cloud Preaser decided to take up the call for action.
Heidi and Ian cleaned up the disgusting spider house and gave it an awesome paint job. They decided to do a performance, which, of course, would have to do something with cats. You know, because they are just so cute. We couldn’t put a bunch of cats in there, so we did the only thing sane people would do. Dress up as cats, lock ourselves in, and pretend to be kitties. Kitty roommates!
Cats need things to play with and tables to jump onto and sleep underneath. So we put a bunch of light up spiky balls, tons and tons of fluff, a few tables, and feathers into the tiny glassed-in entrance. We put on some Kigu pajamas (thanks Becky Schedl) and had our performance as cats last from the morning until the opening of a group show we both had pieces in.
Our friend Matt Lawler drew chalk signs pointing people in our direction, and anybody who came by was invited to be a cat with us. We actually had a few takers! Most people were freshman from the adjacent dormitory coming to see what the crazy art students were up to this time. It was quite a bit of fun pretending to be cats, but oh my god, cleaning up all those feathers and fluff… But 10/10 would do it again.
What happens when you invite painting students into a large room with near unlimited paint supplies, free white shirts and pants, and some beer? You get Cloud Preaser’s fantastic Splash! project.
The idea started off benign enough. Take the same room we have to listen to lectures in and get critiqued in, cover every inch of the wall and floor and furniture in painter’s drop cloth, give everyone clothes they don’t care about, and don’t give any direction. There were gallons of house paint, tubes of acrylic paint, brushes, water guns, the works. Our idea was that a bunch of painters would want to work together to make a beautiful mural showcasing their creativity and talent. Oh how wrong we were.
Turns out, if you give a bunch of young frustrated art students a lot of paint and beer they didn’t have to pay for and freedom to do with it what they will, you get a violent massacre. We had all of the supplies on the middle table to start with, and filled enough plastic martini glasses with paint that everyone had one. The only rule was that everyone had to have one big toast with their paint filled cups. Then it was up to them.
The toast came, it was beautiful, everything was going swimmingly, and then… paint everywhere. Paint being thrown, water guns being filled and fired, everyone running around in terror (fun). Instead of a collaborative beautiful room sized mural we got a huge paint fight. It was a sweet relief to be destroying the room where all the judgment was usually found, where all those lectures took place. It was also fun to pick on each other with the same material we had been studying.
The chaos, luckily, was captured on video which you can see on this page. It was so much fun and I don’t know when we will ever be able to do it again. Once everybody started slipping and hitting their heads on the concrete, we knew it was time to stop, but a lot of destruction (creativity) took place in a very short amount of time.
We left those drop cloths up for probably a week as a reminder to the professors that we were, in fact, in charge.
After Smash Installation
This was the first ever participatory art piece we ever attempted and also the most choreographed. We had a handful of participants volunteer for the project for pizza and rum. They were asked to walk into a room, lay down, and then get up when they felt like it. Immediately after the last participant rose and left the room, everyone was instructed to repeat the exercise. We did this 10 times and spliced it all together.
The idea was that we might find a rhythm after repeating the exercise. The result was the complete opposite. Each attempt created a more complex and syncopated rhythm. Interesting, however, are those who, even with the different rhythms, ended up leaving at the same proportional time over and over again after the separate videos were sped up and slowed down to the average.
Everyone is Everything Else
The original play event from the minds of Cloud Preaser.
It's too cold outside to play with a parachute - NONSENSE! Let's go play with a parachute in Dunn Meadow just to prove it to you. Bring your gloves, though.