reduxzero wanted to read about the production process... so here's the story, as memory serves.
a while back, i made a new friend by inviting her along to see the Hall of Wonders. at the end of the culvert we got to askin each other bout what we would write along the walls. not much came to mind at the time. a great quote perhaps by some famous person, maybe.
that answer wasnt good enuf. about a month after that night, a neuron kicked into high-gear: the hall would be a great place to tell the tale of humanity. how we got here. what we know of evolution. what we're doing to the climate. basic stuff everybody learns in school, but sometimes forgets, or sometimes misses the whole picture.
its graf, though, so we did it anonymously. no internet. no facebook. no cell phones allowed. no talking about it over the wire. one night of painting, we called it "the party". we coordinated *everything* in person... lemme back up.
the concept was hatched: a one page document that had two meeting dates ("the gathering" and "the party"), times, map, equipment suggestions, and a selection of specific colors so that all the paintings would be tied together. i printed many copies of the one pager, folded them into envelopes and handed them out to artist friends, asking them to relay the envelopes to their friends--but to make no copies. and keep everything a secret. we needed lots of people.
before the first date, i researched everything in the final document. this included finding the most scientifically accurate depictions from the big bang to the last common ancestor of humanity. (the pictures were then printed on paper, and then spray-glued to a thin cardboard backing so that the picture wouldnt crinkle. high-resolution. the originals are very cool.) the research also included a city map of the drainage system. the city map was superimposed over Google Maps to estimate the total length of the culvert.
then i created a spreadsheet to calculate the event distances relative to the culvert length. there's more detail here, but this is probably sending you to yawnsville. the spreadsheet was created so that once we had the true measurements, we could figure out where to put the graf.
as you walk along the culvert, you experience the time each event took relative to the previous event. kinda like time traveling. the big bang at 0m, the first stars at 4m, etc. the numbers are in the document. (there are two sections, so you'll find 0m appearing twice in the document...)
the stage was set for the first meeting.
the first date was the initial meet-up to see who would actually show to participate. out of a total network of perhaps 30 people, only seven or so showed at the meeting. we met in a park. true friends yo! there were some conflicts, so all told 10 people offered to help (plus me and my new friend). that was 2 pictures each. oh, and i had a picture to paint as well. i nearly forgot.
everyone was given hard-copies of the scientifically accurate pictures that depicted the scene they were to put on the walls. for me, this meant buying lots of ink cartridges because going to a print-shop was not happening. as few traces as possible. that was intentionally part of the challenge: can you, in this surveillance world, coordinate a semi-complicated project and leave no trace anywhere?
still readin? alright...
the second party was planned for two months after the first meet-up.
before that, one of the artists came over to my place and we worked on the final piece: the last picture in the document ("Power Struggle"). i'm a gonna' ramble a bit here, so skip to the next paragraph for how the creation went down. the phrase "Power Struggle" is a triple-entendre. it refers to the wars we wage over oil, it refers to the struggle we're having to provide power to the world, and it refers to the corporate power struggle to dominate legislation. samuel's quote was chosen because i felt that such an art piece would be difficult to get permission to put out in the open. so we are "forced" to opine in the subterranean depths, beneath the city. the last line, "when will we see the writing on the wall" is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that hardly anyone will see this artistic endeavor, but also alludes to how there are people in powerful positions who choose to ignore scientific facts.
the last piece was a bit of a trick to create. we first created an SVG version of the final picture, based on a description of what i had in mind. my artist friend came up with the idea of a barrel to represent the earth. the upper-left has a white sun and the lower-right has a spout for oil to come out. these represent yin and yang. the buildings are obviously smog-producing factories that burn the oil spilling out of the earth. (in the original concept, we wanted to put tar down on the floor and stick a skull into it, but with all the rainwater streaming by, it wouldnt work.) the dark figure represents corporate greed and surveillance, who has absconded both the scales and sword of justice. before him sits lady justice, sitting in a submissive pose. her powers stolen by corporate enterprise.
it took a couple of evenings to finish. from there, i was able to borrow a projector and shine the picture onto a wall. i taped together a couple of large, thick cardboard pieces. these protected the wall from the exacto blade. then i taped relatively lighter bristol (?) boards onto the cardboard. painstakingly traced the outlines with the blade. had to use tape to keep the disconnected parts together and at the right spot.
for the barrel circles, my new friend helped me find the middle of the drawing. we took a pencil, a piece of string, and traced the circles. (think tetherball here.) that allowed me to carve the four mostly-circular cuts to produce the double-circle.
it was mighty awkward trying to hold/duct-tape the "Power Struggle" bristol stencil to the dirty, dungeon-like wall, but we managed and the result ain't half bad. (there are some obvious mistakes, but oh well!) to give you a sense of scale, the numbers for the year 2096 are about 4 inches tall.
okay, done ramblin'...
about a week before the party, my friend and i marked the walls using painter's tape at semi-regular intervals (10m, 20m, or sometimes 30m), writing down the distance as we went. note to self: next time, a 10m string would be much faster than a 30m measuring tape... even still, marking was the easy part.
we then elected to stencil, letter-by-letter, the name of each piece (in advance!) for the artists. each piece, except the last one, has the titles you see in the document and the approximate era the event happened. cyanobacteria photosynthesis is a fucking long phrase to stencil, btw.
the first night of stenciling was terrible and slow and disorganized. my brilliant friend decided that we should affix velcro to each letter stencil (not that it matters, but we cut half-circles out of the loopy part and stuck the front of each semi-circle to the letters). the velcro was relatively inexpensive, a few bucks for two meters worth. the hook part of velcro was a long rectangular strand. we also bought two meter sticks. see where this is going?
my friend invented an inexpensive contraption that would allow her to sit down (on a chair we brought) and attach letters to a meter stick, while i went off and painted the stencils affixed to the second meter stick. when i was done painting the graf, she would have the next word ready. cyano-fucking-bacteria photosynthesis. seriously...
oh yeah, we also bought one of those multi-compartment plastic file folders with 13 pockets. that way we could isolate AB, CD, EF, GH, etc. separating the letters made it so that we could "easily" find and swap letters (and numbers) as needed. all this in the dank, damp, musky dark, with nothing but headlamps, gloves, masks, and an invasion of spiders. paid cash for everything. no traces.
almost every night for the rest of the week, we stenciled the walls at the correct distances for the graf. the pdf doesnt show much of the stenciling, but it was necessary for the artists to know where to work. also, the dates are important so that you get a good feeling for the chronology. i thought it would only take one night. so, so, so wrong.
for the most part, the artists were on their own for two months. most of them bought the correct colors for the project. some of them (being unpaid artists) made do with the colors they had and couldnt afford to buy new paints. i was told that some of them got together to practice using the paints.
on the night of the party, there were about 13 people who took part. we went down, walked the tunnel, and painted up a storm. one of the artists volunteered to laminate the pages. each piece in the project has its description glued to the wall. makes it kind of like a museum piece. having the text etched in stainless steel and then bolted to the wall would have been a nice symbolic suggestion of permanence. next time, right?
on the way back, there were only a few artists left at the scene (the ones responsible for the art pieces near the end of the project). with their help and flashlights, we illuminated the pieces as best we could and i snapped photos of the pictures. the pictures were added to the document, bundled up into a pdf, and posted using the Tor web browser. hopefully not many clues were left.
thanks for reading!