UNION by Raúl Hott / Aderyn Wood / Felix Aarts
Identify a public space
To think of the body is to think of the world; it is a major topic. Western civilization has had a persistent problem when it comes to honoring the dignity of the body and the diversity of human bodies. Moreover, the diversity of thoughts and free speech has been challenged over and over again. Virtual reality governs our interactions. Today, the body is in conflict. Consequently, the solution to all these problems is in the body. Possessing a body is our common ground, where sports and activities such as dancing are the most primitive form of speech, a non-verbal free speech. The body provides us universal knowledge and universal language. In observing the body in New York City, I discovered that it is in an active state whilst on a basketball court. New York City possesses more basketball courts than any other city in the country. The five boroughs have 570 courts in total, whereas the Bronx has 110 courts, Brooklyn has 190 courts, Manhattan has 115 courts, Queens 120 courts, and Staten Island 35 courts. The basketball court functions like a cathedral: a contemporary sacred space. The basketball court is a horizontal, transversal and democratic space by definition. This flat floor ensures that everybody stands at the same level and there are no hierarchies. There are numerous multi-purpose potentials on these courts for the abstraction, symmetry and simplicity of their lines to be reconfigured for new events.
On May 8, 2013, 54 bodies were assembled at one of the basketball courts at the Pratt Playground in Brooklyn. Al Pierre, a Brooklyn rapper, gave guidelines to generate collective action with the help of an audio piece consisting of 9 songs and 9 movements: an exhortation to walk and perform the body. ‘The Open Body’ was that possible utopia: the essential manifestation of a culture. It is an effort to energetically engage with the world through physical activities that allow us to temporarily restore our identity. This proposal is a chain of events. It is the synchronization of a chain of events, bodies and heartbeats in NYC. It is the temporary occupation of a web of public basketball courts. All of them will be open, free and available for this mega encounter: a massive exchange of bodies moving and dancing simultaneously. This project can be executed on a metropolitan scale or be activated by zones and boroughs, and their specific neighborhoods. This action will be performed at the same time and same day every year. The invitation will be called ‘UNION’ and will be activated by millions of bodies doing something together and united. The event will transcend in time; it will be part of our calendars and will be freely repeated every year. The collaboration will become large, diverse, and unique, as a result of the greater power of the crowd, and the execution of movements for the reactivation of the social body.
I will follow a strategy of engagement based on six months of strong presence in the city to ensure that the crowd will perform on a specific day. The first version of The Open Body was approved by the Parks & Recreation Department in Brooklyn; it later received an award as the “Best of Brooklyn” at the #GoPark Photo Contest by the same Department. Due to the project’s good reception, the next step will be to create an Alliance to support the execution of the project on a larger scale, and facilitate the availability of all the courts. This Alliance will manage the support of Public Art Program of the Department of Transportation and Public Art Fund. The Alliance will also provide funding to implement temporary sound equipment. A new version of the brochure will be published and edited to make sure it efficiently guides and choreographs the movements of the multitude. The project will feature a group of performers who will guide the action on every court. They will be trained for one week. With the use of an audio recording and a sound system on each court, a narrator will give guidelines and instructions to generate collective action and meditate on the basis of this new alternative to the audience: this new “UNION.”
Creative Director/ Principal in Charge: Raúl Hott (http://www.raulhott.com)
Raúl Hott is a cultural producer with architectural background that does work about the body. He is a Brooklyn-based artist born in Chile. He received his MFA in New Forms at Pratt Institute. Ultimately he has developed projects for the public space, where the last, self-funded and main event ‘Songs for the Open Body’ was supported by the Parks & Recreation Department from Brooklyn; this event gathered more than 50 participants as active performers. Raúl will lead this project as Creative Director/ Principal in Charge.
Aderyn Wood is Founder and Director of The Project Relay, a web platform connecting artists with opportunities; Acquisition Development Consultant for Tuuum, a user-driven marketplace for art; and Independent Project Manager across various industries. Aderyn completed an MFA in Sculpture from Pratt Institute after a decade in the design industry. Aderyn’s experience will be key to execute this project and create alliances with supporters as a Producer and Project Led.
Dutch artist Felix Aarts is a classically trained dancer who performed with numerous European classical and contemporary dance companies. He has found his way to visual arts and creates two and three-dimensional work. He collaborates with a variety of artists as a set designer, choreographer, painter, photographer and performer. Felix will be essential in this project as a Choreographer who will design the efficacy of the movements of the crowd.