Last week we attended FIGMENT, a wonderful arts festival on New York City’s Governor’s Island. It was a small taste of Burning Man, with many burners present – along with art cars, decorated bikes and modestly large art projects.
We had been staying in New Jersey and didn’t want to pay the toll or ferry fare to get to New York, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked across the George Washington Bridge, where we picked up a downtown train. It was a familiar ride for Jay, who had commuted the length of Manhattan daily for way too long, but this trip didn’t end at South Ferry.
Just east of the subway station is the Governor’s Island Ferry. The ferry terminal is in an old building that has been refurbished inside, and we arrived just after the noon ferry had pulled out, leaving us about forty-five minutes of waiting time.
I (Amy) didn’t want to let an opportunity go to waste, so I whipped out four sets of raas dandiya and asked the others in the waiting room if they wanted to learn the game / dance. Within minutes I had three volunteers, a crowd of observers and the lesson had begun. What a fun way to start the afternoon!
The free and short ferry ride was packed with passengers, bicycles, and (official) vehicles. We arrived on the unusually green island and quickly found out that Governor’s Island offers free bicycle rentals on Fridays.
Biking around the streets brought us to a new – usually interactive – exhibit every fifty feet or so. One artist offered a sandbox filled to the brim with 200 pounds of silver glitter and the tools to play with it (an egg beater, sieve, silver spoon and more). Playing in the soft silver sand felt very galactic. Across the lawn, another exhibit called Bagel Buns featured mountains of bagels with three girls dressed in neon exercise clothing leading a bagel aerobics class – exercising with the bagels, eating the bagels and so forth. On the other side of the island was a piece of winding fabric that was well over 100 feet long. As we got closer to the exhibit, we realized that a woman sat at one end of the fabric knitting it! She’s been knitting the scarf off and on for seven years.
Finally, two highlighted exhibits that win the “coolest” and “weirdest” awards. The coolest goes to “Theater for One”, a mobile theater space with a plush red chair for one on the inside and a box for a performer on the opposite side separated by a sliding panel. When you are seated inside, the panel separating the two spaces is removed and a 3-4 minute show begins – just for you. I enjoyed a fantastic magic show, while Jay was read poetry on a subject of his choosing. The whole experience of having someone perform for me – and only me – was overwhelmingly exciting and intimate, yet professional. Theater for one is an art project that was piloted in Times Square earlier this spring and will be traveling across the country in the coming months.
The weirdest award goes to an exhibit where participants dress up as a super villain (tons of props, wigs, costumes included), put on a poncho and step into an inflatable pool opposite their opponent. They are each given five stuffed animals that they need to drench in water and toss at your opponent. The person who gets the most hits wins. This was apparently a take on some Korean television show.
The whole experience was an odd entrance into others’ imaginations and into a loopy, trippy world. I loved every minute of it. While FIGMENT is a three-day experience, we were only able to attend the first day but it definitely whet our appetite for Burning Man! And we finally took some photos, so enjoy!
posted by amybetho and jayhorowitz