Artist feature content series: FIGMENT artists

In 2017, I worked with FIGMENT Oakland interns and our communications team to brainstorm and produce a series of longform articles featuring outstanding FIGMENT artists. Together, we developed a content strategy and a plan for interviewing participating artists and creating some in-depth content.

The goal? To build excitement for the 2017 FIGMENT event, and raise awareness in the local community about these San Francisco Bay Area artists.

A huge thanks to the artists who we spoke to, and a big high five to our phenomenal communications and content intern Adelia Gregory, who conducted the original interviews and drafted the articles! Here they are, all linked in one place. Dive in and get to know some of our favorite FIGMENT artists.

1. Meet Chris Hirst, the man behind Robot Dance Party

Chris Hirst creates a little Robot Dance Party at FIGMENT Oakland 2015

Get to know the Bay Area’s favorite robot! “People don’t dance enough,” announced Chris Hirst, the creative force behind Robot Dance Party: an infamous robot that dances in San Francisco’s Dolores Park, Oakland FIGMENT, the annual Burning Man event, and many other places. “This made me think that a dancing character would encourage people to dance more.” People think: “I’m dancing with a robot and it looks ridiculous, but it doesn’t make me feel nervous or embarrassed.” [Keep reading]

2. Astro Botanicals, “Space Plants” and Psychedelic Spirituality

Enormous inflatable Astro Botanicals sculptures at FIGMENT Oakland.

Astro Botanicals are “elegant, inflatable, space plants shaped like classical ornamental flowers.” His inflatable designs are purposefully extra-large, so their multi-colored light displays give off a magical aura. “Younger kids love it, because they love playing hide-and-seek with [the sculptures],” he observed. “There’s an interesting chaos when kids take over.” Astro Botanicals is a phenomenal example of how art can have profound historical links while remaining accessible and enjoyable to all ages and audiences. [Keep reading]

3. Take a Step Into Urban Play with Illustreet

Video still from Illustreet at FIGMENT Oakland 2015. Click for video!

Together, art and participatory community can shift our perspectives, enabling us to indulge the more childlike impulses of play, fun, and experience for its own sake. For FIGMENT artist Aitan Mizrahi, creator of Illustreet, “all it took was a dry erase board [and] a timer.” We caught up with Mizrahi this week for a conversation about how Illustreet was presented at FIGMENT Oakland, and how interactive art encourages participants to leave their daily stress behind. [Keep reading]


4. Hiding From the Machine: FIGMENT explores surveillance art

A model in CV Dazzle facial disguise, courtesy of Adam Harvey.

An examination of freedom, art and identity in the era of constant surveillance. For FIGMENT artist Adam Flynn, invasive data collection was something many weren’t even remotely paranoid over. That is, until CV Dazzle. Computer Vision Dazzle (CV Dazzle), a project from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), directly responds to algorithms’ invasion into our private lives. [Keep reading]

5. A Box Theater, Two Men, and a Red Carpet

The Glamorous Box Theater girl squad at your service! FIGMENT Oakland, 2015

FIGMENT highlights DIY interactive cinema with Larry Lansing and Eddie Kestermont. Eddie and Larry, joint creators of The Box Theater, decided it was time to create an “innovative spoiler experience.” The result: a playful, 10-minute film featuring deep spoilers from The Sixth Sense, Star Wars, and other classics woven into a mini-documentary. [Keep reading]

6. The Art of Subtraction: Artist Rachel Colwell on the meaning of erasure

Artwork by Rachel Colwell

“Erasure is a very simple technique,” Rachel Colwell explains. “Using pens, [you] choose 5-6 words out of a page to make a sentence with.” Like her poetic inspiration, Brion Gysin, she finds that crossing out words isn’t just cathartic, it’s also a way to examine how we declare something more “true” or “real.” This is the basis of Colwell’s project, “The Art of Subtraction,” which uses cast-off books and poems to practice the technique of erasure.  [Keep reading]

7. Robotics Artist Ashley Newton on Technology, Art and FIGMENT

Robotics artist Ashley Newton with some of her creations.

Something phenomenal happens when technology expands the reaches of an artist’s imagination. Ashley Newton, a San Francisco-based artist, spent her days doing market research in a cubicle before stumbling on that accidental discovery. Newton and her business partner, Sean Stevens, were teaching a class on creating arboretums when one of the students mentioned something revolutionary: robotic flower. Just like that, the internal gears of a maker began to turn. “[We] called it Sustainable Magic, because we wanted to create something magical,” Newton smiled. [Keep reading]

8. Celebrating creativity & imagination with artist Robin Birdd

Artist Robin Birdd inside The Danger Room, FIGMENT Oakland, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist on Instagram.

If you’ve heard of the X-Men comic books, you might know about The Danger Room: a fictional training facility appearing first in X-Men #2. “The Danger Room [is] a [space] that changes depending on what the characters want [it] to be,” Robin Birdd noted, pausing to consider the inspiration for her own version of The Danger Room. Robin Birdd and Jeffrey Yip wanted their version to be as much a place for creative imagination as possible: “Every time Danger Room pops up, there’s a new scenario,” Birdd explained. [Keep reading]

9. FIGMENT sits down with multimedia artist Adam Davis

A painting by artist Adam Davis.

“It’s only been recently that people started thinking of the Bay Area as tech hub first, and art hub second,” says Adam Davis, an illustrator and full-time father in the East Bay. Davis attended FIGMENT in 2015 with his project Secrets Everywhere, an intricate, puzzle-like scavenger-hunt in which participants used clues to find a piece of art they could keep. This project–along with his original scavenger-hunt–are very much about immersive experiences leading people to see the world in a new light. [Keep reading]

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