High-five-inducing chairs. A super-sized springboard. A bent-pipe tree that lets you send whispers to someone standing far away.
This weekend the Red Bull Creation returned for its fifth challenge in seven years, pitting ten teams of artists, engineers, and makers against each other in a three-day build-something-cool contest. With the subversively political theme of “Bridges Over Walls,” the participants gravitated toward interactive installations that require two or more people to collaborate — from the three above-mentioned projects to a Q-Bert-esque array of musical seats, a jellyfish-like light-up construction that produces harmonious music based on how many people engage with it, and an array of spinning mirrors that invite people look closely and discover other people doing the same on the opposite side.
This year’s Creation occurred at American Steel Studios in Oakland, Calif., an historic formerly industrial warehouse complex that now houses large-scale artists and Burning Man participants, some of whom comprised the team members for the Red Bull event. And while the competition aspect has remained constant through the years, one modification of this year’s show was jumbling the contestants into teams that hadn’t worked together before, rather than sticking with familiar friends.
“I think everyone was moved and inspired by this year’s event,” says Red Bull Creation Event Director Jason Naumoff. “We really didn’t know what would happen, but found it so heartening and encouraging that complete strangers could come together and create what they did.”
Through the years, the event itself has proved to occupy an important space, putting attention, framework, and dollars toward the talented artists and makers of our community. Having participated in three of them (I was a host in 2012, and a judge in 2013 and this year), the competition element feels secondary to the overall celebration component of the event. While the teams are eager to create something impressive — and they all do — they are equally inspired to help each other out. That sharing component is where so much of the magic comes from, as well as the constant shift of the contest as well.
“If we do the event again we will continue to evolve it,” Naumoff says. “That’s really one of the cornerstones of this project. It would be interesting to expand on the idea of radical collaboration between strangers.”
This year’s finalists, and the rest of the participants:
Winner, Judge’s Choice: Upstream Social for “The High Five Machine”
Team Members: Zonker Harris, Brett Jaeger, Brandon Murphy
Overview: This team built a sliding-seat apparatus that only activates when both seated persons press their “go” button at the same time. Electromagnets release the chairs, which roll down a track past each other. The riders are instructed to high-five as they pass by.
Winner, Team Choice: Sleepless Strangers for “The Giant’s Door”
Team Members: Hannah Jackson, Ankeet Presswala, Adran Rodriguez, Peter Taylor
Overview: This impressive project starts with a story about an intergalactic giant studying the concept of love. A knock from the wrought-iron ring on the door induces a voice from behind to explain the basis of the study, and guides the participant to write a letter about being in love and put it through the slot. When the letter passes through, an electronic printer gives a receipt with a scan of one of the other submitted love letters, allowing all to anonymously share their stories of ultimate happiness. The team also created a website for the project.
Team: Is It Art?
Members: Jeff Tiedeken, Luke Iseman, Sean Cusack, Zebreon Wallace
Overview: A divider of spinning mirrors that invites the looker to meet the person on the other side.
Team: The Tool Cats
Members: Dan Grayber, Dash Corvin-Brittin, Lzrd Uzcangah, Rachel Rose Ulgado
Overview: A tree made of many, many bent conduit pipes, each with a funnel on the end that can be used to clearly send a whisper to the other side.
Team: Ladies and Dents
Project: “Home is Where the Art Is”
Members: Christopher Beacham, Nathan Parker, Lady PheOnix RuachShaddai, Rob Froetscher
Overview: A lightweight bike home that can be easily brought from community to community.
Team: Phixed Not Broke
Members: Jazmine Schwinges-Williams, Ryan Montgomery, Steven Frangos
Overview: Rotating art installation with iron branches, glowing ambient light, natural plant life, and a touch-to-activate two-person discussion aspect.
Members: Josh Cardenas, Rachel McConnel
Overview: Light-up musical tree with five branches that add to a C-major chord when pressed simultaneously.
Team: First Contact
Project: “Welcome to Middleground”
Members: Quincy Savage, Rachel Sadd, Seo Michael, Usman Khan
Overview: Discussion-starting device that introduces a variety of topics for two participants to either agree or disagree on.
Team: The Point
Members: Dave Sharps, David Strom, Rosie Wakely
Overview: Each platform in this series of staggered seats contains a different musical surface, from chimes to percussion to an electronic theremin.
Team: Torus Exchange
Members: Brian Enright, Juniper Yun, Laurus Myth, Mark Krawczuk
Overview: Jump on this giant springboard with a few others and you’re forced to do two things: hold onto each other, and smile.