Art fair, craft sale, street fest, busker stage, booze party, puppy park, cupcake sale—what is BUILT Festival? I still don’t know, but this “new art initiative” could have been so much more with so much less.
Tristan J.M. Hummel’s resourceful idea to create a miniature city of temporary galleries in shipping containers is not conceptually far from his other contribution to Chicago art events, Art on Track, an annual occasion where he rents a CTA train and turns over the cars to artists he selects for the world’s largest mobile art gallery. For BUILT, he curated the contributors by submission to include individual artists, non-profits and collaborative groups, including the Chicago Urban Art Society, Spudnik Press, and the Happy Collaborationists.
The seventeen shipping containers wall-in the Aldi parking lot. Unfortunately, the lights flickered and failed several times, causing the makeshift white cubes to go pitch black, a forgivable technicality on opening night. The problems for me began with the shipping container next to the entrance, an on-site boutique for AllSaints, a bougie new store that recently opened on Michigan Avenue. This and the exhausting plugs for the main sponsor, Fuze, a $10 entrance fee, and plenty of other for-sale ephemera threw off the community arts vibe for me--as did the fire-breathing woman performing atop a shipping container.
Overall, a few exhibits managed to engage the visitors by using the minimal, industrial interior space of the 8-feet-by-20 feet shipping containers to their advantage. The graphic design group CMYKittens filled their space with a colorful cyan, magenta and yellow display and an interactive portion about the design process. “Building: a Way of Living,” a group show inside of one of the containers asked artists to create sculptures from common construction materials, like wood, stone, shingles and vinyl siding. The result was thoughtful and attractive. Jettison Quarterly also took an idea from the festival to heart, displaying their magazines and some disco balls tumbling out of what looked to be a giant package, just the kind of thing a container would carry.
Hummel has good intentions with the project, still discernable beneath the glowing Aldi sign. BUILT is an ambitious concept that, after its inaugural year, has an opportunity to examine what it wants to be. I suggest looking to the spring’s MDW Fair and make it Chicago’s premier art event on the west side for emerging artists and smaller galleries, and cut the superfluous elements. Start with the art, and go from there.
-Mia DiMeo, Staff Writer ArtSlant: Chicago