Conflux to open this weekend, then to close for good

(Credit: Urbanite)

Conflux 2007 from Doryexmachina via Flickr

Conflux, an annual art festival that has turned the streets of New York City into a mobile playground and research lab for five years now, will be no more after this weekend’s run.

Some of Conflux’s past events include a noise parade through the Lower East Side, installations in roped-off construction zones and a 24-hour “road trip” around the city, but Christina Ray, the festival’s founder said it’s time to move on.

“I feel like I planted the seed, and now it’s reached the point where this community has been built around it, where instead of 30 artists we have 100 artists coming from all over the world,” she said. “It’s not an entertainment festival with big corporate logos around it, and the big challenge has been to keep it that way.”

This year, the four-day festival that starts this morning will be based out of NoHo after three years of tramping around Williamsburg. One highlight this year is an Urban Disorientation Game, where teams of participants will be blindfolded, driven to and dropped off in another part of the city from which they’ll have to find their way around without the benefit of maps or cell phones.

“We use it as an opportunity to let people look at the city in a different way,” said Calvin Johnson, who is organizing the game. “The question is, what does it mean to get lost and find your way again?”

In another activity, participants will be given classic novels of English literature and read them aloud on park benches throughout the city. A group calling itself the Federation of Students and Nominally or Unemployed Artists will set up a table and give away $10 to $60 grants to anybody who comes up with a convincing use for the money.

“It’s about art that approaches the viewer instead of the viewer approaching art,” said Thies Ten Bosch, a Rotterdam-based artist who will be building small houses in empty parking spaces in Manhattan over the weekend. “It’s art that people can’t get around.”

Artists and participants now say they see the city as a drearier place without the annual twist of perspective that Conflux afforded.

“You live in this city and after a while you get into a habitual routine and you don’t pay attention,” said Jeffrey Barke, who moved to the city after attending Conflux in 2003. “Conflux opens up the city again as a source of creativity and play. That’s something you risk losing as you get older and Conflux helps you reawaken it.”

Ray said she was open to others running the festival, but some wondered if the city had changed too much to permit an offbeat, under-the-radar arts festival to flourish.

“It’s scary to think about what happens if rents keep going up or if you organize something like this and have to go down a more commercial route or less experimental route to stay viable,” said Calvin Johnson, the organizer of the Urban Disorientation Game.

“What happens to New York when the artistic activity that was here goes away?” he asked.

--David Freedlander

Tags: conflux , arts

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