Participation Station

So the short story is that the dome melted… read on to to find out what happened…

The Randome was invented by American mathematician and activist Dick Fischbeck. It is made out of sixty circles of slightly flexible plastic and has the special properties of requiring no measuring of angles, no struts and no special way of constructing except to overlap the elements and bolt them together. The dome can then be rolled and strapped to the top of a car, taken wherever and unrolled – pow! An instant six metre wide dome, three metres high!

Well, I couldn’t get the same thickness of material Dick used, so he suggested getting the thinner stuff and gluing sheets together with contact adhesive. So after a couple of days of cutting circles, I spent a day gluing, but the next day found that the adhesive had softened and warped the plastic sheets. Undaunted, I thought they may still have enough structural integrity to hold together, but after a 18 hour studio stint, found that it was too floppy.

I went back to the drawing board and found some similar strutless dome designs, one of which only required thirty elements instead of sixty. After a week of late-night studio sessions converting the elements from two-ply into four-ply, I was ready to assemble the new dome. One 24-hour construction session later, found that it still was too floppy. What kept me going? Well the dome maquettes I made stayed floppy until the last moment, when the final pieces pulled the angles together and popped the construction out into a dome shape – so I kept going until the end.

I arrived at Plasnewydd Rd at 9am Saturday morning, actually ready to fold (as in give up – an unfortunate interpretation of this year’s theme), but the madeinroath team saved the day with the loan of an event shelter, and Participation Station was able to go ahead.

How did the day go? First up, at 12.00, was Goldies Cymru. Jess and Kate were invited onto Studio 22’s stage to belt out some classics. They kept it up for a few songs and I joined in (as did the Studio 22 crew) while grabbing folk on the street and getting them to join in. My first event, and I think I was already losing my voice…

Now fully immersed in the madeinroath vibe, I was back to the Participation Station for “You vs. Me” – my own ‘face-off’ drawing session. I sketched a few people while they simultaneously sketched me. A five-minute limit was set by my little pink hourglass, but if they finished before I did, then I had to stop (well, I mostly kept to this rule). I’m keeping the sketches of me to make a board game – yeah, don’t ask! Each participant took my drawing of them home – hope they were ok!!! *nervously chews knuckles* Karl, my right hand man for the day kept this activity up for a few hours while I ran off to do other things.

Back to Studio 22’s s stage and the Cardiff Tuneless Choir (or about a third of them… still sixteen people, though) conducted by Mei, enthusiastically launched into some feel-good pop masterpieces. I don’t know about the ‘tuneless’ bit… they sounded pretty good to me. On the other hand I did join in, so my impartiality felt as compromised as my vocal cords when we had finished singing.

After all that activity a nice bit of calming Yoga would have been nice, so squeezed in between a brass band and a samba band, the Participation Station had a moment of respite for – no, wait a minute – not remotely tranquil Laughter Yoga. Twenty minutes of fake laughing (with structured repetition) felt like 20 minutes of a circuit training session focused on the belly and cheeks (that’s face cheeks, I should add). I never knew faking fun could be such fun. I think I actually hurt myself.

It was a good thing that Marcus West was there to demonstrate an actual alternative healing technique called Huna. This ties in perfectly with the idea I am trying to explore through being an artist: that all art can improve lives. So, while Joseph Beuys famously said “everyone is an artist”, I might propose that “every artist is a healer” and so “everyone is a healer” too.

Wait a minute, that got kind of heavy. At the end of the day we still had to put all those marquees and event shelters away, which takes me back to where I started writing. At least there was no dome to take apart!

But the story does not end there. What about next year? What about not giving up? Yes – by next October, I am planning on making five or six Participation Stations for madeinroath. Together they will form a Participation Pavilion for artists to use as alternatives to marquees. The criteria are that they must be easy to put up and take down, reasonably waterproof, inexpensive and safe. If they look kind of cool, that would be a bonus.