A festival of childhood imagination
A woman in body paint poses with a temporary installation at New York City's Figment, an annual grassroots participatory art festival that is touring the United States. (Brad Cohen)
For reasons still not completely clear to me, my entire body was sore the morning after Figment, an annual grassroots participatory art festival that is touring the United States.
The soreness might have been brought on by dancing to the music blaring out of a giant roaming toad, or maybe it was biking around the festival or perhaps it was the questionable decision to roll down a hill. But it was probably just my body trying to tell my brain I wasn’t a child anymore, because after spending the day at Figment, my brain forgot.
Figment is a free festival that began on New York City’s Governor’s Island in 2007, and has since moved to a handful of other US cities. Jackson, Mississippi and New York City hosted events earlier this year, and the festival will travel to Detroit, Boston, Washington DC and Pittsburgh through October, with Detroit up next on 21 and 22 July.
When executive producer David Koren and other founders began Figment, they wanted to bring the Burning Man ethos — or as Koren wrote, the idea of working “collaboratively together to make great things happen” — to a space that all New Yorkers could enjoy. Now in every city that hosts a Figment event, hundreds of volunteers offer their time to ensure that this can happen. And though the founders did not create Figment with children in mind, they did intend for it to be fun, and as such, the festival is an amazing place for kids
Nothing is for sale at Figment: one of the tenets of the festival is unconditional gifting. For example, Aqua Attack is an installation involving costume-clad heroes and villains hurling soaked stuffed animals at each other in a war of good and evil. Afterward, participants can keep the costumes they chose to wear.
While there are a couple of sculptures not meant for climbing, “no touching” signs are not to be seen. Everything is meant to be played with. If Figment were a country, it would be the happiest in the world – and I would apply for citizenship immediately.
While some pieces will make their way around the country, each event is unique to its city. In New York, adults and children ran around the interactive sculpture garden, banged on a set of plastic industrial drums, painted silk tapestries and played this year’s version of the annual minigolf course, a project where different artists created each of the nine imaginative holes, some of which reinvent the game’s basic principles.
Many of the sculptures will remain on Governor’s Island throughout the summer, including the free minigolf course.
In every city, Figment is about local artists coming together to building a temporary community, where smiling people are willingly launched into interaction with the art and each other.