By Barbara Bausch
artscope’s Barbara Bausch, who is also a dancer, will be a participant at this year’s FIGMENT Festival, which will be held this weekend in Boston, where she’s been living since April. Here she describes her expectations for her first FIGMENT Festival.
Three weeks ago, I had never heard of the FIGMENT Festival. Then, while dancing on the street in front of Cambridge City Hall, I met a woman in a pink tutu who told me that, under the name Denise Awesome, she aerobicizes people all over the city. “Call me and we’ll do it together,” she said. One week ago, I finally got in touch with her. She immediately asked me if I would like to join her in an aerobic and dance performance at the FIGMENT Festival. I said yes, and started to read about what FIGMENT is.
“Everything is meant to be played with,” writes Brad Cohen in Arts & Architecture. “If FIGMENT were a country, it would be the happiest in the world — and I would apply for citizenship immediately.”
Founded in 2007, FIGMENT is an annual non-commercial, de-commodified, environmentally responsible festival entirely organized by volunteers and participating artists. It contains interactive exhibits, performances and scheduled activities, all completely free and open to the public.
The founders wanted to address different problems they saw in today’s cities and society. Citing a lack of opportunity for emerging artists, too much passivity in our society, a lack of community among urban residents and few free events for young families, they wanted to create not only access to the arts for everyone, but also awareness of underutilized public space. They try to demonstrate what art can be beyond commercialism: “Participatory, bursting out with creativity and completely free, born from the desire to share imagination and invention between artists and the public.” Everyone is encouraged to get involved — not only by visiting and observing, but also by getting creative and active in his or her individual way. As I understand it, the core concept of FIGMENT is to offer a space where everyone makes art for everyone, with no expectations other than creating community and having a lot of fun.
FIGMENT began at New York City’s Governors Island, where the festival is followed by a summer-long exhibition including an interactive sculpture garden, an artist-designed miniature golf course and an architectural pavilion. Growing each year, the festival now also travels to Boston, Detroit, Washington, Pittsburgh and Jackson, Mississippi. Some art pieces will make their way around the country, but since its inception, the local artists of each participating city ensure that every FIGMENT is a unique experience.
This weekend, I will not only visit the FIGMENT festival for the first time, but also be part of its Bostonian version. Denise Awesome and I — as b. wilder — figured out what we will do. Reviving ‘80s music and style, we will get people to do aerobics and dance with us. A saxophone player will support us with live music in our public lesson, and the whole performance will be documented by video. I have no idea what the other artists have planned, and I’m already very excited to find out. FIGMENT seems to be an art festival that is exactly what one makes of it. For my part, I’m ready to get involved and be enchanted. I can’t wait to touch and play, an approach to art that usually gets lost as we grow older. Maybe we can be like kids again — even if it is only for one weekend.
(The FIGMENT Festival takes place this Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29 at the Rose Kennedy Greenway in the heart of downtown Boston. For more information, visit http://boston.FIGMENTproject.org/)