A stroll around last weekend’s Built Festival, a temporary city made of huge abandoned shipping containers, really felt like a city. Or, rather, completely different from the site’s usual Aldi parking lot (1767 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
Each container held work from artists selected by fest founder Tristan J.M. Hummel, but there were also artists stationed outside of and between the containers. In total, there were more than 100 independent artists and performers populating Built’s city.
The containers were laid out so people outside the lot couldn’t see the vibrant life of the city within, Hummel said. And from the inside, “it’s just complex enough that it feels like you are really going somewhere as you wind through.”
It’s not his first foray into public art. Since 2008, when he started Art on Track, he’s rented out a CTA train for a night and has artists curate each of the eight cars. “I always like giant rectangular metal boxes, I guess,” Hummel shrugged.
A group from St. Louis, where Hummel grew up, STL Improv Everywhere, created a shanty and plopped it right next to one of the shipping containers. When we stopped by, a member of the group (and one of Hummel’s childhood friends) offered Hummel a “really interesting proposition”—to kick them out as piece of performance art. Hummel declined.
People would call out to Hummel as we walked by — ” Did you catch any of the workout video?” asked Meredith Weber of the Happy Collaborationists.
RedEye strolled the festival just after a hailstorm had passed by, and many of the artists were still putting their pieces back together. Dave Sharma, founder of R&D Gallery in Lincoln Park, who made a large, colorful wall-hanging out of individual pieces of foam core, needed to reapply duct tape to the pieces so they didn’t fall off the wall.
Janet Rozylo and Jason Davies of Team Art! were trying to create an interactive piece, where viewers could shoot bright-colored paintballs at a black and white print. But, because of the humidity, the paintballs weren’t breaking open when they hit the paper. “Kids were up there trying to shoot and it wasn’t spattering,” Davies said.
Inside the containers, however, most of the art was safe from precipitation. The T.A.R.T. collective, a group of students and alumni from Columbia College, had filled their box with animal heads, baked goods — and zombies. A preview of what T.A.R.T. would be offering in their train car for September’s Art on Track, the zombies represent “fear of technology and the machine,” said artist Chelsea Middendorf, who created the costumes. “Embrace what’s coming, but make sure you’re aware of what’s going on.”
But Middendorf was careful not to put too much weight on the idea: “People can go there just to enjoy the zombies. It’s definitely light-hearted, but for an artist, it’s important to have an underlying meaning.”