Have you ideated portable air conditioning solutions while feeling the sweat run down your back on a scorching summer day? Join the club. To explore social dysfunction and personal space artist Gregory James has engineered a 300lb mobile air-conditioned suit. The name says it all; The Mobile Personal Climitification Unit (M.P.C.U). On select days this July, as part of the performing arts festival Capital Fringe D.C., the artist will be walking around the city in the suit.
James and his team operate under the corporate alias Satisfixation L.L.C.. In a studio in Beacon N.Y. the artist engineers and manufactures a range of, in his own words, performance based sculptures. His performance art works are a humorous play on polarities; they enhance personal space while disrupting urban public environments.
Interestingly, the artist has made it a point to source material from American companies, paying homage to American manufacturing. This very costly choice and the pieces lead me to questions pertaining to consumer society; how do objects dictate the premises of relationships and human behavior? In this particular piece the the user is, on one hand, enveloped within a climate controlled safe space. In this aspect the M.P.C.U. acts as a barrier to the public. On the other hand the sheer absurdity of seeing a man in a ballooning white suit in bright yellow rubber boots pushing a stainless steel cart around is attention grabbing. People take pictures or attempt at playful punches into the inflated suit. The performance itself provokes engagement leading to constant breaches of security in respect to the users personal space.
I find myself asking if any public spaces are personal and to what degree a space needs to be shielded to be categorized as personal? How much and what type of freedom are we as people or as citizens entitled to? And finally, is our society too fixated by satisfaction? A good set of questions to be asking in America’s capital city.
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Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is editor-in-chief and founder of Cultbytes. She mediates art through writing, curating, and lecturing. Her latest books are Assuming Asymmetries: Conversations on Curating Public Art Projects of the 1980s and 1990s and Curating Beyond the Mainstream. Send your inquiries, tips, and pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org.