By Sabina Mollot
Art in Odd Places, the public festival of visual and performance art that’s been known to take over the length of 14th Street every year, will return this week.
The event, now in its ninth year (its sixth on 14th Street) will feature works by over 30 artists whose installations or other projects will be seen from October 11 to October 20 from the Hudson River to Avenue C. An opening ceremony will be held at Campos Plaza, East 14th Street between Avenues B and C, on October 11 from 6-8 p.m.
Throughout the 10-day event, all the art will have the theme of “number.” The theme was the idea of festival curator Radhika Subramaniam, who explained that numbers can be something people overlook, even though they’re used every day when checking the time or a street sign.
“Any time someone goes below Houston, they think they’re lost,” she said, noting the lack of numbered streets downtown. Meanwhile, numbers can also have a lot of meaning for people and when seeking artist submissions, when putting out the open call, Subramaniam included mentions of recognizable numbers such as 911, 711, 1492 and 13.
“When 9/11 happened, we all watched (the news) every single day to see the number of people who died,” she said, also citing more recent examples of numbers being meaningful to people in situations such as the recession or being in debt. Then there are numbers associated with being lucky or special like birthdays. “Some of us have awful experiences in high school with math, but we use numbers all the time in wonderful ways,” said Subramaniam. “It’s everywhere in our environment.”
So, while some of the art projects are on the more serious side, others are more playful.
This year, the festival includes three tours of sorts, all of which involve a participant downloading an app that will lead him or her along the way. In one case, in an installation by EcoArtTech, participants will be guided on a journey led by the nose of a virtual dog.
Other projects include a number of advertisements plastered here and there indicating a takeover by a nefarious “Wallart,” fliers will offer opportunities to those who call a number a chance to air their dirty laundry and cape-wearing Rory Golden may make an appearance for his “Human Cannonball Countdown” piece.
Passersby should also keep an eye open for buildings with scaffoldings, as what is normally perceived as a temporary eyesore by most could have a ceiling decorated with mosaics courtesy of artist Samantha Holmes. AiOP regular Lulu Lolo, a performance artist whose past festival personas have included “A Gentleman of 14th Street” and a newsie in her act “Extra, Extra,” will be back this year. As “Operator Loretta,” Lolo will connect those who interact with her with their past.
In an effort to make the festival more concentrated for those heading to 14th Street for the sole purpose of seeing it, there will be two “Critical Mass” Saturdays, the first being on October 12 from 1-5 p.m. between Sixth and Eighth Avenues, the other on October 19 from 1-5 p.m. between Second Avenue and Avenue A with several artists involved in each place.
“So whenever someone goes by there will be a festival atmosphere,” said Subramaniam.
Subramaniam is a professor at Parsons who also curates the galleries there and the founder of AiOP is teaching artist Ed Woodham.
In AiOP, all those participating in the festival, from Woodham to the interns to the artists, are volunteering and the art doesn’t get sold. Nonetheless, the competition to be featured has been fierce, and going through the applications is a process that normally takes organizers around a month. This year, the process was sped up a little though since AiOP was to have its debut in Australia before showing in New York.
Woodham, who recently returned from Australia and the festival there, said it had been very well received. In years past, AiOP has also traveled to Boston, Los Angeles and St. Petersburg, Russia and soon it will be going to North Carolina.
Whatever the project goes though, Woodham said the responses have overall been the same in that there’s always, “a sense of delight, a sense of wonder. Whether it’s the work or the placement of the work, people look at their surroundings in a new light.”
However, according to Woodham, the festival is still the most recognized in New York, where, as it also happens, he hasn’t had to apply for permits. “We don’t do street closures so I never need permits,” said Woodham. “The whole purpose of Art in Odd Places is to creatively and mindfully reclaim public space… without getting arrested.”
For more information on Art in Odd Places, including an event calendar, visit artinoddplaces.org.