One thing I have always loved about Maker Faire is that it gives me a chance to witness some big art in person. What is “big art”? Well, it’s a loose term. For me, big art is typically large, too large to fit in my local museum. In my mind, big art mixes industrial skills like building structures and creating entire environments. Most importantly though, big art inspires you to feel awe.
The Physically Large Things
As usual, I was very excited to attend World Maker Faire New York to see what big art we had on display. As you walk into the event, you’re instantly greeted by the 30-foot-tall robot built from old airplane parts, called Robot Resurrection (seen above). This thing is towering above you, spreading its arms to welcome you to the Faire. Flames bursting from its palms were bringing gasps from the crowd. This is exactly the kind of thing we’ve come to expect, it is grandiose, flamboyant, and big.
The Life Size Mousetrap made an appearance. A Maker Faire regular, the Life Size Mousetrap is part big art and part performance. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, you can’t help but watch as the cobbled together Rube Goldberg machine of massive proportions clanks and smashes its way to its goal; a crushed car and a cheer from the crowd.
Not All Big Art Is Visually Large
There was a newcomer to the Faire this year. This one, though literally the size of a horse, could easily be overlooked. The Mechanical Horse was life sized but quiet and a bit subtle. The motion of this sculpture is what really impressed onlookers. The fluid replication of a horses gallop in the sparsely populated structure was hypnotizing and hard to walk away from. It didn’t make any noise at all, or at least nothing you could hear over the ambience of the Faire itself. Mostly all you could hear were the hushed expressions of “wow” and “That’s so beautiful” from those watching.
The thing that really struck me this year was the way that people were crafting really big experiences. Take for example the Gamelatron. This art installation took up a decent amount of space, though most of that was a lounge complete with beanbags. However, when you were in its presence, it felt massive. The tones from the robotic gamelans were all-encompassing and directionless. They surrounded and consumed you.
Outside, in the hustle and bustle of the Faire, we had another installation. This one, though only physically the size of a wheel barrow, left its mark over nearly the entire event. Skryf, a sand writing robot, was traveling around writing a message in sand as it moved. The text, a message of hope for the future, ended up being blurred by foot traffic and wind, leaving the mind to wonder what the words truly meant. At any point in time, people could be spotted following the trail, seeking out the source of the mysterious words.
These two experiences stand out as being able to breach the confines of their physical size. The experience people had with these was easily big art in my mind and I was happy to have been able to see it myself.