Built Festival comes to Wicker Park
Spudnik Press, the Happy Collaborationists and other artists exhibit their work in shipping containers.
“There are so many worries I have with my festival not being on a train,” Tristan Hummel tells me over coffee. As a cofounder of the annual one-day exhibition Art on Track, which debuted in 2008, the artist figured out how to produce a group show on an eight-car CTA Orange Line train circling the Loop.
I first attended Art on Track in August 2010 and discovered that—without nails, and with only a few hours to set up their installations—local artists, galleries and organizations transformed the train into a remarkably successful exhibition space. I felt giddy as I rushed from one car to the next, though some of the thrill came from seeing art in such an unusual venue, rather than from the art itself.
On Friday 12, Hummel plans to take art to another unconventional space: the parking lot of Wicker Park’s ALDI (1767 N Milwaukee Ave). His new Built Festival, planned with local artist David Dvorak, runs through Saturday 13, presenting art in various media in and around 16 shipping containers set up in the lot.
Hummel, who graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009, started Built because he wanted to host an exhibition for more than one day, but renting a CTA train for an extended period of time is “cost-prohibitive,” he explains. “I wanted to go someplace else, where I wasn’t restricted by where the train could go. Not a lot of people come downtown for nightlife. If you’re up somewhere like Wicker Park, people come to your festival, then they go out to a bar or dinner. It makes a lot more sense. And I thought, shipping containers are kind of hip; let’s ride that wave.”
Buildings made out of shipping containers have become commonplace during the past decade, thanks to architecture firms such as New York–based LOT-EK and retailers like Freitag, which constructed its Zurich flagship store out of stacked containers. Dekalb Market, a shipping-container mall devoted to independent entrepreneurs, opened less than a month ago in Brooklyn.
Built “is not a vendor fair,” Hummel clarifies. There will be tangible artworks for sale: Exhibitors include Spudnik Press, the Silver Room and the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Team Art!, whose hilarious Rescue or Destroy project at the last NEXT fair doomed paintings of adorable kittens and puppies to destruction by ax, will have a container as well. One of the collective’s members, Allen Vandever, “is making the paintings he’s selling by letting participants shoot paint at them,” according to Hummel.
The Built impresario emphasizes, however, that the festival is largely dedicated to performance art by groups such as the Happy Collaborationists, STL Improv Anywhere and T.A.R.T. (The latter contributed one of my favorite projects to last year’s Art on Track, unnerving viewers by performing domestic activities in an El car.) “They’re selling ideas, and obviously there’s no price tag on ideas,” Hummel says. “That’s why there’s a price tag on the festival.” Tickets to Built cost $10, which, he acknowledges, strikes some as steep. “[But] after the costs of the festival are covered, the money from tickets and beer gets split, [and] a portion goes to the artists in the show.” Built’s expenses, which he estimates as four or five times those of Art on Track, are partly underwritten by corporate sponsors, including ALDI.
Though the supermarket strikes me as an odd host for the festival, Hummel assures me it’s a great fit: “Frankly, a lot of artists shop at ALDI.”
Built runs Friday 12 and Saturday 13.