October 5, 2020
A Dream As A Start...
Weird dreams have been common during the Coronavirus pandemic. On the night of May 13 I was falling asleep and I had a somewhat visual dream of a model of a basketball court, in my hands. The two backboards, without the hoops, were connected to each other, with thread or rope. In the dream, I knew that I had designed the pattern of the ropes tied on the corners of the backboards. The thread went down the front of the backboard, down along the court, and up to the other backboard. When I woke up, amazingly, I remembered the dream, and I drew it. Maybe this dream happened because I have a past as an architectural designer...
Part of my thoughts, after that dream, was about all of the public spaces, and how they are geared towards the sports. Where are all the spaces for the artists? Maybe we can have some of them turned over? (Maybe not, since the hoops are back?) This dream was the inspiration for BasketArt Court near my apartment.
We Go on an Adventure! By Audrina Warren
The afternoon of May 30 2020, I visited the installation in Jefferson Park, with my friend Ken. The installation consisted of bicycle tire tubes, woven together in the style of exaggerated basketball nets, hanging from empty hoops. The hoops were empty because the City’s Parks Department had removed the nets to prevent gatherings during the pandemic lockdown. At the time of our visit, the two sections of nets were a few inches from touching.
However, bare with me for a moment while I tell you about a trip last year in September 2019. I had gone to betOnest artists residency in Stolpe/Oder Germany. It was at an old concrete plant, closed in the 70s. One of the buildings was for storage of rubber gaskets, which connected huge pieces of cylindrical concrete to each other, to make channels for rain or sewage underground. I decided to make something with them. When I was traveling back to Boston, I was researching the gaskets. Maybe I could get used gaskets?
Then it dawned on me: bicycle tubes! I have a long history of being a biker. I also went to Rhode Island School of Design and have a long history making art/re-designs/etc. In 2003 I began making installations of performances with temporary piercing and collaborators, where I pierce them with needles and connect them to the architecture and/or each other and sometimes with threads, ribbons, elastics, noise makers.... With art made with the bicycle tubes, I am trying to reach more of the public audience. And, of course, we have the 6’ between us, so my performances with collaborators are on hold. Now, the bicycle tubes have become my medium, and for now, I'm solo and outside.
Arriving before I did, Ken asked a nearby group of bikers if they knew where the art was, but they were oblivious of the installation 100 ft away. Overlooking the court, one solo cycler and his bike perched on the hillside. The park was quiet. We snapped a few photos, and I expected us to turn around and leave if no one else was around.
The black rubber tubes (sometimes called ‘ropes’ by me) are tied together with square knots, every single one of them. I tied the tubes/ropes together using the square knots, on and on and on every day. Every tube. Every knot. In fact, the tubes are attached to the backboard with nothing. No drills/screws, hammers/nails. Interestingly, I found that there are spiders and wasps in the backboards! The spiders built beautiful designs within the tubes! We were collaborating! Also I noticed that one of the backboards is actually installed off-center, but I'm sure it doesn't affect anybody.
The dream had one idea for the BasketArt Court, but when I got out there and started working on it, a bunch of other ideas came to me. I was really alone to some extent. I was there, doing my work, talking to the tubes most of the time! Is it just a connection between the two backboards? Maybe the tubes don't meet in the middle, instead one is really long and squiggly, and maybe the other is heavy, thick and straight. Maybe they are spitting at each other. Maybe one is a “?” And the other is the “!”
At some point, the solo cycler comes down to the court to find out what we are doing. We all want to know the same thing, “what are we supposed to do”. Xray says, “Whatever you want!” I want to pick up the net of tubes and walk around with it in my arms. It feels like a dance, but with a bear, or maybe it’s like dragging a canoe or a tire out of the water. It’s much heavier than I expect. Xray makes a video of me while I pull the net towards the field. The net rolls over itself, so I try to bring it back to the center of the court but I have to aggressively smack the net in the opposite direction to flatten it out. It mostly stays tangled regardless of my effort. Everything seems like a metaphor. Neither Ken, nor the solo cycler wants to touch the net.
Sometimes I found myself talking with folks about what I was doing and why. There were a few people who were bummed that there were no hoops, but those folks had not heard about them coming down. I think the majority of the basketball players had heard before.
My work has not been so exposed to the public before - this being in public, and people wary of contact - in the midst of all this, people had been really interested in what I was doing, eager to talk, wanting to know more about what I was doing. People asked if they could play! I told them they could, and if they wanted to use gloves I had them. I got to meet many people who have stories about that neighborhood, buildings that were taken down, the old high school which is now condos. One person, who worked for the Parks and Recreation, managed the area and grew up right around the corner. He told me about how he had gone to high school there and how the area had changed over the years. The majority of the folks I have talked with, had been supportive of my redesign.
So, devoid of its usual activity, this dream basketball court re-imagines reasons for gathering. As far as Xray knew, the installation could last as long as another month, because the lockdown prevented organized group sports. To me, this reuse of space is a sort of guerilla artist residency. I think Xray agrees. I wonder what we learn by turning the space inside out. What makes people want to gather, connect – form groups? Who are these groups? When do we know what is the right number of people for a group? Are these rational calculations? If so, can we go back and post-rationalize a metaphorical expression of value into truth – or at least reality?
There was a family that played a game that they made up with tennis balls, thrown against the backboard, scoring different points depending on where it hit. There were three kids with their grandfather, who chased each other around the tubes, and on them. One family, on a bike ride, came by and climbed the tubes vertically - then tried holding it up, horizontally! There were folks that took advantage of the tubes when I wasn't around. I'd come back the next day and find different designs that had been left.
Late one night, when I was close to the end of tying off the tubes, I talked to a couple of guys in this crew. They were playing on the court with a football! Apparently, they were basketball players, and they were sick of waiting for the basketball hoops to come back, so they made up their own football game. They piled up the long tubes at either end, and played their game in the opposite direction that basketball is played. They would throw the football really high, and if the person didn’t catch it, they had to do push-ups! Hysterical and healthy.
Unfortunately, we left those thought bubbles floating in the air. We could have kept talking but did not want to take too much of Xray’s time. The plan was to keep weaving the tubes until the two nets passed each other and were long enough to be tied together, and they were. Though soon after, we find out that this temporary intervention was, cut short as the City reopened the basketball courts – for basketball. What does this say about how we define the value of space? Must we all become sports fans upon encountering sports? Does art need to conform to some previously understood precedent to have value?
When it was done, one backboard had a thicker and heavier tube than the other side. I tied both tubes together in a square knot. But then, because people wanted to play with the tubes and/or so they could play on the whole court, I untied them, and left it separated.
It had been interesting to be talking with people about what it meant for me, and to them, that this basketball court had been changed to this public art, the BasketArt Court. There were a few days where I put a call out to artists in the area, and told them to come to the space and make art. Museums, galleries, and all the places that have art performance spaces. It seems like everything is on hold. So it was nice having some other artists take space at the BasketArt Court.
Around June 22, just a couple weeks later, I heard that the tubes had been cut down, off the backboards. My friend had picked them up and stored them. Around August 1st the Parks and Recreation put the basketball hoops up again.
Check out the project in full here.
BasketArt Court is by Xray Aims (xrayaims.com). They are also Aliza Shapiro, owner (and archivist) of Truth Serum Productions (truthserum.org) They have done shows, concerts, TraniWreck/Wreckage, films, dance parties, Dr. Sketchy, benefits, readings, etc. from 1994-2018. They have performed as Heywood Wakefield 1999-2013, and they started doing art as Xray Aims in 2003. In 2011 and ‘12 Aims had a couple of strokes, amongst other things.
Audrina Warren is a visual artist. Fifteen years ago she moved to Boston from Western Mass. Currently based in East Boston, she was recently a member of the Atlantic Works Gallery, and for ten years she worked with Proof Gallery in South Boston’s Distillery Building. Her art work is online at audrinabellwarren.com