Last August the EWP crew headed out to the Black Rock Desert to build the bones of a mini-city. Though mostly an experiment, our intention to survey a massive arced street, minimal infrastructure, and whatever art people wanted to bring accidentally put in motion a scalable pattern of organization, setting off a chain of events that would spark the creation of the Electric Universe. Towards the end of the week, revelers who would brave the journey to beyond the playa mirages discovered a living, thriving village. Certainly, nobody showed up because they knew about us ahead of time, but they stayed because Seplaya Village was bumping with art, music and celebration of community.
Once the skeleton of Seplaya Village was laid out- the “promenade” (our version of the familiar esplanade), the temple, portos, and the Grand Soiree in the middle- everything that happened next was pure organic human momentum. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick and the observation that really stuck out was the emerging relationship between structure and the qualitative experience of art, eventually transforming that “light touch” infrastructure into an experience of magical discovery and connection. People, it seems, love to prioritize organizational efforts first, but then quickly pivot to novelty and wonder. My conclusion: Art is most exciting on the event horizon, in that space between the liminal and subliminal, that moment when the colors hit the blank canvas.
What makes us tick? Pretty much just that. This is where we are, who we are.
Art is creation- it goes beyond mere objects we sculpt or paint, it’s also what happens when a community finds its roots, so that it may, in turn, begin to create the flowers of whimsy. Torrey Pines Smith, Everywhen’s latest featured artist, is a giant petal on that flower representing the maker/art community. Torrey is the builder of many extraordinary things: a giant Tesla Coil, the iconic Sextant Tower, zipline and Dome, but also tiny little remote controlled robots that survey a person’s gastrointestinal tract (I kid you not, watch the riveting IGTV interviews we just uploaded to @everywhen_project). From homeless wanderer to papa bellybot, his story is a resonant slice of what happens when a new community finds its footing, providing a path for magic makers to step up and flesh out the skeleton with color and imagination.
“There's value in big art, crazy, inspiring, insanely inefficient, big art, because it kind of has the effect of aligning people in some very beautiful ways.” Says Smith. “Like suddenly you see that damn thing and you're like, all right!!! Astronauts call it the overview effect. For the few people who have been in low earth orbit and beyond, and have seen the world from space, apparently there's this effect it has on you where you kind of see things slightly differently after that.”
So true. But here’s the thing, meaningful art that stimulates community doesn’t need to be big. One of the most effective and beautiful works out there during Seplaya 2020 was also one of the simplest. It was a one-person installation, driven to location in a tiny car, set up in a few hours and then gone by morning. The artist took empty glass bottles of various sizes and colors, placed them with intention to fill her immediate living space, and then lit them from inside with multicolored LED lights. The results were stunning. Passersby were struck by the multihued, radiating vessels illuminating the raw playa, arranged in a sort of a rainbow maze, soaking with invitation. And at the end of the maze, a sweet soul with an open heart willing to connect made countless new friends within a universe of her own creation.
The Everywhen event in the Mojave, coming this fall, is the logical extension of that first experimental effort. This time, we’re doing it with permits and contracts and implementations beyond light touch infrastructure. We’re creating the full organizational sandbox for participants to build, dance and play, a city waiting to be defined by the flowers that bloom from the very human act of going above and beyond what is needed, to create what is so necessary for magic and transformation.
Your BIG art is very welcome here, your SMALL art is equally well received. Bring it, and spark the magic that you seek.
PS: Buying tickets early makes a huge difference in how we fund art for our inaugural year. Get your people together and we hope to see you in October!