Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Madagascar Institute Chevrolet Art Park* Projects

Madagascar Institute has been high on our list of proposed participants for more than two years, and since then a lot has happened. The artist collective bought a block of houses in Detroit near the River Rouge plant to use as an artist residency and went from being an underground phenomenon whose dangerous play contraptions made from recycled car parts, jet engines, and industrial materials were featured in alternative spaces, warehouse parties, and Maker Faires to a legal entity featured in the New York Times, Popular Mechanics, and on Science channel shows.

                                                                                  Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

We finally met up with Hackett at the Madagascar Institute shop, at the end of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, to discuss what might be possible to do in Flint and how to do it. We agreed that a plan for ongoing production, collaborations with local makers, and a spirit of performance and fun are high priorities for building a useful program.

Madagascar Institute has created a few projects that were particularly funny over the years, in particular the Chariot Race of "jankety, cobbled together, dangerous-to-even-look at" homemade vehicles at the 2010 NY Maker Faire, featuring participants dressed in gold lame short-shorts--especially people who should never ever wear short-shorts--and the Jet Ponies, an amusement ride that involved guests sitting on top of decommissioned airplane engines lit with a blowtorch flying in circles. 

The "This Ride Will May Kill You" sign and waivers were key, but no one was harmed during the event.

*Chevrolet Art Park is the name for a temporary alternative use of the former Chevrolet manufacturing site known locally as "Chevy-in-the-hole."