Archive | 2012 Blog


What are you working on now and how does the piece in Conflux relate?

Right now I’m arranging and re-arranging the furniture in my studio at the VCCA where I’m in residency. I’ve been creating installations and documenting them, then sometimes making animated gifs from them. Kind of mashing up ideas of “domestic” and “artistic” production. Not sure if any of them will ever be shown/posted/etc. In a lot of ways that’s the exact opposite of my piece for Conflux. But I suppose they both deal with different kinds of spaces. Inner personal space vs. public/internet space. And the time I’m spending here is a necessary respite; which will then undoubtedly reverse when I re-enter the city. In that regard they feed off each other: Get quiet to then go public, go public to then get quiet again.

What interests you in working in public space? what are some of the challenges you face making public work?

Access, really. So many different types of people are likely to encounter a public work than they are in a gallery or even museum. Because most of my public work is online there are few challenges. One is the relative newness of the medium, another is creating work that challenges me yet remains accessible to as large an audience as possible. But I suspect these are issues that every artist faces to some degree.

Anything else you’d like to share about your recent work or involvement in Conflux?

I am really excited about the other artists included in the festival! Their work has inspired and challenged mine in many ways. It was also really fun to revisit the work I’m contributing, and to think about how to present it. It actually inspired me to create a series of four-minute walks here in Virginia. I did four over four days, starting at 4pm each day (and ending at 4:04). Every day I walked from my bedroom to my studio, which, incidentally, takes four minutes. I’m playing around with the audio now and it may end up as a sound installation eventually. Something about hearing four days at once…

Any great adventures you’ve been on recently?

Today I went on a short hike on part of the Appalachian trail! It was beyond beautiful. I also opened this door..

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What are you working on now and how does the piece in Conflux relate?

Much of my life of late has been the Ghana ThinkTank. This is a collaborative effort with John Ewing, Carmen Montoya, and dozens of think tank members and comrades around the world, including Ghana, Cuba, El Salvador, Serbia, Iran, Afghanistan, Mexico, and, as I write this, Morocco and the Republic of Georgia. Much like my earlier, personal work in this year’s Conflux, it is a project dedicated to creating unlikely connections through seemingly naive reconfigurations of stuff we tend to take for granted.


What interests you in working in public space? what are some of the challenges you face making public work?

Radical Common Sense. When I lived in Benin, if cars were driving too fast through the village, people would break up the road with shovels to slow them down. In some ways, common sense has become a radical idea in the United States. We live off the vapors of assumptions we receive from someone else. I am trying to get back to this sense of radical common sense, connecting to another through an act so obvious we would never think of it, so easy we would never dare.

But common sense is hard to smell! And the only consistent way I can find it is through someone else pointing it out to me with my own damn fingers. So I am interested in setting up the sorts of situations that reflect our lives through another’s perspective—the finger that points at the moon that reflects in the puddle that we step in, and the cold muddy water splashes down our boots and socks.


Any great adventures you’ve been on recently?

I just climbed to Mother Georgia in Tbilisi. Next week I will customize a Donkey Cart in Morocco!

Check out more here:, Ghana ThinkTank:


What are you working on now and how does the piece in Conflux relate? What interests you in working in public space?

I tell stories of people and infrastructure. It’s a pattern-finding exercise, linking things together (that sometimes have no real link!) and thinking in metaphors. But I think expanding ideas out into new directions—even absurd ones—is a great driver of creativity, as long as it’s done in a setting appropriate to experimentation.

I’m not formally trained as an artist, but I have a background working with technology in research-driven settings—I’ve done design research at Carnegie Mellon, worked at advertising agencies, and now at OpenPlans, a non-profit that helps cities run better. My educational background was oriented towards technology and the public sector.

I consider my professional work to be a strong part of my creative practice. Conflux’s topic is public space, which isn’t the same as the public sector, but there’s certainly overlap, and I think this framing is actually quite novel among the group. I’m also focused on the transportation sector, which is very related to Conflux’s topic of moving through the city.

To tie those things together, I think there’s a role for art/design in the development of technology for the public sector—government agencies are so afraid to fail, and because of that, for me, it’s really highlighted the need for experimentation to happen outside the public sector at an appropriate scale and in an appropriate space. Once these futures are proven, then the ideas can trickle back into the public sector and become “institutionalized” as it were, as necessary.

It’s also highlighted the need for technical expertise and familiarity with issues in the public sector to imagine new futures for the public sector. I say this at the expense of coming across as an advocate of “expert decision-making”, but I want to draw a distinction between expert-practitioner and expert-engaged-citizen. Both are required—and we need to get both of those groups of folks talking to each other to generate new ideas/ways forward. I think community-based artists and designers are ideally suited to be expert-engaged-citizens at the very least, and hopefully (and in my case) expert-practitioner around these issues, too.

My work for Conflux is called walk-shed, and walk-shed is a tool that imagines New York City’s network of deployed sidewalk sheds as a consistent system that pedestrians can use to avoid the elements: sun, rain, snow, bricks. Sidewalk sheds are a perfect metaphor for both “open-source thinking” and the integration that I see happening more via technology: What is done at a local/personal level, the deployment of a shed for a facade repair project, can be seen and understood at a level up (the macro/city level) as a complete system—with an appropriate piece of technology, that story, that frame, becomes visible/understandable and the emergent system takes on a new quality—and perhaps a new use, as I propose.

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What are you working on now and how does the piece in Conflux relate?

My main current pursuit is helming a public-access television show that’s streamed worldwide and known for being out-of-the-box and inclusive of anyone. The Magic Bus of Stories event that I’ll be speaking about at Conflux has led directly to the public-access project I’m consumed with now. The Magic Bus of Stories provided an insane level of access for participants into my own life ranging from childhood to modern day, and the level of connection this created between myself and the participants as well as between the participants themselves, completely redefined my focus to always incorporate the idea of shared, two-way experiences into everything I do. The television show stages a different event each week, and our best shows aim to involve people live in the studio, with events happening on air that are triggered by callers on phones, and that incorporate the reaction of people watching in real time on the internet as well.

What interests you in working in public space? what are some of the challenges you face making public work?

As a comedian, I work to make people happier via laughter. I have made every effort to combine my own narcissistic desire to put my name and face on my projects with a very honest desire to make my work about connecting like-minded people, who often identify as outcasts, with one another. In the same way that music builds scenes, and musical genres attract like-minded people, different wings of the comedy universe can do things as well. My efforts to stage things in non-traditional venues like moving buses, my own home, and a public-access television studio allow me to build environments that the public has full access to and where there are far fewer divisions between performer and audience than any traditional comedy venue. My work as a comedian has often been compared to performance art as it involves less and less of a fourth wall and aims to include as many people as possible. 

There are far fewer challenges for me to work in these realms, as being a comedian and finding opportunities to stage things more publicly than usual doesn’t lead to as many legal and social barriers as people who work in other mediums might face. I hope more and more that I can find opportunities to bring portions of my world to unexpected places in similar ways.

Any great adventures you’ve been on recently?

Tomorrow I head to Brazil on a vacation I planned on a whim. Ask me when I get back.

Check out more here:, @ChrisGethard


What are you working on now and how does the piece in Conflux relate?

Right now I’m working on an off-the-grid (solar-powered) performance space near the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s an old movie-prop tower about forty feet tall, so the working title I use is simply “The Tower.” The work will span a quarter mile or more of space. The booklet I’m sharing at Conflux (“GET LOST!”) is very tiny, but both projects ask you to become a performer, even if you’re just doing something like lying on the ground in a place where most people wouldn’t normally do that. I’m not a “performative person” but I like to think the world could use a little more weird.

What interests you in working in public space? What are some of the challenges you face making public work?

What people do in public space is quite regimented, but everybody knows just about anything can happen. A good example is the “In case I get hit by a bus” trope. Nobody says “In case I have a heart attack clicking the ‘Like’ button on Facebook,” even though those odds are probably better. Your computer feels safe. The outside and other people feel dangerous. This fear of anything and everything happening to us while out in the world creates a lot of informal social agreements about how we’re to behave in that world—like walking on the proper side of the sidewalk. These agreements are ripe material for artists interested in engaging people in this terrain. The challenge then is how to crack open those informal agreements in—I’ll use a Dungeons and Dragons alignment term here—a “Chaotic Good” way, a way that disrupts the flow of the day in unexpected but ultimately pleasurable and insightful ways.

Any great adventures you’ve been on recently?

I made a visit to the Black Hole in Los Alamos, New Mexico, the other day, right before the liquidation sale. I spent the day digging through some of the most amazing and threatening electronic and machine surplus in the world. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a day. I must have asked “What is that?” to myself about a thousand times. It’s a question I should ask more often.

See more here:, @robdeadtech