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Organizers prepare to launch fourth Figment Boston festival on Greenway this weekend

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  July 22, 2013 03:02 PM

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Figment walk-through 2013.jpg

Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

Figment Boston producer Jason Turgeon, at right, showed artist Chris Linder, at left, the area set aside for his installation “Dancing Lights Music.”

Last Thursday, about two dozen artists strolled the Rose Kennedy Greenway to discuss the placement of an LED light-bar display, a car shaped like a giant telephone, and multiple belly dancers.

For the fourth year in a row, and its third on the Greenway, Figment Boston will delight, amuse, and befuddle local residents this weekend with its unusual blend of interactive arts installations.

Jason Turgeon, producer for the all-volunteer festival, said it has come to embrace such varied expressive forms that organizers have had to re-think the terminology they use to invite project proposals.

“We don’t even call it a ‘call for art’ anymore, we call it a ‘call for participation,’” Turgeon said.

He said this year’s Figment will include slightly fewer projects than in its past two years on the Greenway, but several will be larger and more dramatic than participants have previously attempted.

It will include “Powerlines,” in which suspended LED light bars that change color in response to movement; “Air It Out,” in which visitors can write notes and hang them on a clothesline to “air their dirty laundry,” and “Ask a Teenage Girl,” which Turgeon said is “exactly what it sounds like.”

“We consider art to be anything imaginable, any imaginable medium,” said Clare Densmore, communications director for the festival. “Art really is about creativity, creative expression, and that’s what we’re trying to encourage here.”

Densmore said she is looking forward to an installation that will give visitors an interactive lesson in interpretive dance, an art form that has become important to her.

“Improvisational dance is this amazing creative expression for me,” Densmore said. “I’m able to just piece together any movement that feels right to me in that moment, and it’s a dance.”

The festival will also include “Figment After Dark” from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday in Dewey Square, which will include music, dancing, light effects, and video projections, they said. An evening program was planned for last year’s festival but had to be canceled due to rain.

“There are a lot of artists in our community that really want to do things in the dark, that have light-based art, so we are trying to accommodate that,” Turgeon said.

Organizer Pete Zawadzkas said the layout of this year’s festival will be expanded. In 2012, the projects stopped just north of High Street, he said, but this year they will extend to East India Row.

Zawadzkas leads the placement team for Figment, determining appropriate locations for each of the festival’s idiosyncratic installations.

“It’s a multifaceted process,” Zawadzkas said. “We make a map, we move some stuff around, we make another map, we move some stuff around.”

Zawadzkas said the basic considerations are whether an installation will require electricity, whether it should be placed on a lawn or on pavement, whether it will be elevated above the ground, and whether it should be in shade or sunlight.

He said all of those considerations have been incorporated into a survey given to participating artists in the early stages of planning, and that the festival becomes easier to organize each year, as the placement team’s understanding of the Greenway grows.

Still, he said, there is new and different art to deal with each year.

“They always keep us guessing,” Zawadzkas said.

In Dewey Square, near the festival’s southern tip, artist Chris Linder paused during the
walk-through to determine the best placement for his piece, “Dancing Lights Music,” an interactive light and sound installation that responds to movement.

“It’s collaborative because you can’t set off all the motion detectors yourself,” Linder said. “Ideally, people see how it responds, and figure out it’s movement [that triggers its responses] and then draw others in to work together to activate all the parts.”

Linder said the project had previously been shown at the Priceless festival in Northern California, where he saw a toddler who wouldn’t allow his parents to pass by the installation without making them stop so he could get out of his stroller to interact with it.

He said bringing that kind of pleasure to audiences of all ages was his goal.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Linder said.

Figment Boston will take place on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway on July 27 and 28. For a full list of artists and projects featured in Figment Boston 2013, click here.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

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