DUMBO Arts Festival

After moving to New York last August, my first real encounter with the arts in the city was through the Under the Bridge Festival in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Being unemployed and desperate to escape from job applications and my computer, I volunteered almost a whole week to help build an installation of paper trees at DAC. I also volunteered at the festival itself, which was awesome, but I didn’t get to see a lot of the festival. You can read about that experience in this blog post.

This year was different. I spent almost all of Saturday at the festival and saw most everything. It was also different in another way. Since it started in 1997, the DUMBO Art Under the Bridge Festival was run by DAC. However, this was the first year that it was run by another organization. Having only the two years to make comparisons, I can’t say definitively how much was different. But I did notice that a certain earnest experimentation was missing this year, replaced with more family-friendly activities. More of the streets were also left open to traffic instead of being filled with performance art, which made it feel a little less like the whole neighborhood was coming alive with art. This could also be me getting jaded after a year in New York (although I hope not). This is not to say I didn’t have a great time. There were a lot of wonderful things to see, the above broken accordion being only one. It had a control panel to play some wheezing “songs.”

I started by stopping by DAC, where there was a maze of stacked cardboard boxes. It was fun to wind around the narrow passageways, and I actually didn’t realize it was a maze until I was in it and saw some kid with a map. Well, I made it out. I then walked along the waterfront, where there was music and installations like the above Robert Indiana-like “Everything is Fine.”

I made it all the way over to the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, where there were dance performances, like the one shown at the top of my post. I then wandered back to the main DUMBO area waterfront between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge, where there some installations like the above sculpture.

I really enjoyed the open studios, if only for the chance to wander the industrial spaces. I stumbled upon the studio for the guy who does those light flowers I keep seeing. Turns out he also makes these whimsical squid sculptures, which I would absolutely love to see installed somewhere. I also visited a letterpress studio and the studios in Smack Mellon.

I got a pastry and coffee at Almondine and then watched these people dance with giant balloons, while someone sang into a megaphone.

I think my favorite exhibit was by the Work Office. It is an “employment agency” for artists, giving them tasks like documenting a need for repairs or creating a local guide, all for WPA-era wages. In the above installation, you called a number to get assigned a “job” and stamped a timecard. It’s hard to see from the picture, but this window directly faces the Manhattan Bridge. It’s stunning. And on the note pad on the desk some had written “To Do: Stare at Beautiful Bridge.” Done.

We ended our visit with video_DUMBO, the video art exhibit. I was mesmerized by a really intricate projection that compiled clips from tons of movies into a revolving image of Hell, Purgatory, Earth, and Heaven. Hard to describe how insane, yet incredible, it was. There was also a video where someone had recreated a Marina Abramovic performance in second life and an installation where miniature people were projected onto glass jars. The whole video exhibit was one of the best things I’d seen all day and a good way to end the experience.

One thought on “DUMBO Arts Festival

  1. […] in a row now makes it an unparalleled tradition in my arts activities. (Read here about 2009 and 2010.) Installation under the Manhattan […]

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