Uniting a nation with weird art machines

The United States is in a bit of disarray right now: The presidential race has the nation so worked up, the American Psychological Association felt compelled to publish coping tips. Americans are somehow still hurting themselves playing Pokemon Go. Things are so bad, even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have thrown in the towel.

And we’re bickering about all of it on the internet, with friends, family and total strangers, through Tweets, ‘Grams and Facebook posts.

Social media may have its uses, but it’s proved to be nothing short of divisive in times of discontent. That’s why, earlier this month, “experimental event think tank” New Creatures stepped up and launched a nationwide Rube Goldberg Machine-inspired art installation called Common Ground.

A snapshot of Oakland makers preparing for the Deconstruction.
@ Tim Hussin

The installation was created collectively by makers, artists and performers from across America in celebration of the 4th annual Deconstruction, a 48-hour long event series that prompts participants to create something completely new from items they have ready at their disposal, and make a human connection along the way.

“This is an incredibly ambitious, almost stupidly ambitious project,” said New Creatures cofounder Jason Naumoff. “We’re not talking about making this thing out of Legos and marbles. We’re talking about things like lasers and projection mapping and giant flamethrowers and gospel choirs – and probably things like Legos and marbles.”

Think of Deconstruction as one of those corny waves crowds participate in during sports games. When one installation ends, the next is set off, triggering a cross-country chain reaction of conscious, connective art.

This domino installation in New Hampshire will take your mind off of weary politics for a minute.
@ Zachary Leighton

Here’s how it worked: Common Ground started on the West Coast in Oakland with a machine created by chain reaction artist Steve Price. When it finished, Price’s machine texted Phoenix-based “Maker Twins” Pat and Mike Murray, who launched into an installation featuring software and robotics. The chain reaction continued East through Atlanta, then North to New Hampshire before returning West to Detroit and back again to Oakland for a Black Lives Matter-themed piece of performance art.

And yes – there were flamethrowers. But for at least five minutes, for those who took the time to watch the Facebook livestream, there was a sense that humanity had been restored to what’s otherwise been fragmented public discourse.

“These days there are so many forces driving Americans apart that we wanted to create a project that finds common ground through addressing the issues we face in a fun and interesting way,” said Naumoff.

More info here.

Related project
Rap Smart Academy: Debate Format Rap Workshops
Rap Smart Academy: Debate Format Rap Workshops

We develop the skills required for rapping, language, literature and freetyle rap activities.