Founded in 2010 by Hannah Flegelman, Art Cart NYC™ is a mobile exhibition space that encourages people to think imaginatively about exhibiting and experiencing art. Art Cart works with emerging artists to stage contemporary art installations around the parameters of a truck.
After participating in the Fab! Festival and Block Party and the New Museum’s Festival of Ideas for the New City, Flegelman teamed up with sisters Liz and Genevieve Dimmitt, founders of their own mobile spaces Etta Place and El Camino ARTRV, to organize Truck Yeah™: A Mobile Meet Up. Truck Yeah events are creative happenings that bring together a group of trucks (art, fashion, music, design, and of course, food) to celebrate mobile arts and culture in NYC. Truck Yeah recently hosted a mobile meet up at Pine Box Rock Shop as part of Bushwick Open Studios 2012, featuring artists Allie Pohl, Ann Liv Young as Sherry, B. Thom Stevenson, Brooke David and the Brooklyn Art Library. We had the chance to chat with Flegelman about her unique approach to audience engagement, why art should be in a truck, some of her highlights from Bushwick Open Studios and more!
Paddle8: Why art in a truck? What inspired the idea and what unique opportunities/challenges does this alternative mode of exhibition offer?
Hannah Flegelman: The idea came to me at the height of the economic downturn in 2009. I noticed that only the top galleries could afford to stay in their brick and mortar spaces at the time, and that many artists and curators were instead staging pop up shows or temporary exhibitions in vacated real estate. I was also very aware of how mobile food trucks were becoming a phenomenon around New York City, garnering mass audiences through the use of social media – particularly twitter. I thought that creating a mobile exhibition space would be a fresh way to approach not only art making and exhibition, but also a way to reach an expanded audience by bringing art to the streets.
Working around the specific parameters of a truck has been a great challenge that is also very rewarding. Some of the greatest opportunities the truck provides are that the artist must consider every angle of the vehicle, from the inside to roof and sides, even the cab itself. This exposure allows for many types of work to be presented at once, in addition to designing the truck as a unified 3-dimensional exhibition. The biggest challenge is staging an exhibition durable enough to be driven around, and making the biggest impact with fewer tools than are easily provided by regular galleries (lighting, power, etc.).
P8: For Truck Yeah, your artist used the truck almost as a studio rather than an exhibition space – can you talk about her project, and how you changed the way the truck functioned in comparison to your previous projects?
HF: Yes, Defaced was more conceptual and participatory in nature compared to previous exhibitions. Allie Pohl’s most popular body of work, “Ideal Woman,” mainly deals with how the media and popular culture set unrealistic ideals and (sometimes literally) shape the way we present ourselves and compare ourselves to others. Allie’s next step was to investigate how this influence has evolved through the use of social media.
For Defaced, we designed a website, www.defacedproject.com, which serves as an open forum for individuals to anonymously contribute their thoughts and feelings about using such sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; everything you might want to express through these outlets, but refrain from saying. For a month leading up to the project, we gathered approximately 1,000 contributions from across the country and Europe. Those comments were streaming on an LED panel we set up on the outside of the truck. It had a Jenny Holzer feeling to it but with a millennial generational flair since the truisms were crowd-sourced (One example: I Tweet Therefore I Am). Inside the truck, Allie conducted anonymous interviews with event-goers to have a more comprehensive back and forth about the social media experience.I think of this exhibition as one stage in the larger scope of this project. We are still gathering information, and more material results are yet to be seen. This was also the first time that Art Cart presented a project to which anyone could relate. People might not know who Jenny Holzer is, but nearly everyone knows what Facebook is, even if the individual does not have an account. The truck allows us to go directly to the sources of what we are seeking and reach new subjects, thus including larger audiences in the conversation.
P8: What were some of your personal highlights from Truck Yeah at Bushwick Open Studios?
HF: One personal highlight was seeing how event goers would react to the Defaced comments streaming on the LED panel outside our truck. Some would have very strong affirmative reactions to the comments, whereas others felt provoked to contest them, which ultimately led them inside the truck to be interviewed by Allie. Our goal was to spark these reactions from the public. It allowed us to go deeper in the interviews about what it means to design your online persona, and how that persona might be different from the person sitting in the truck talking to us.
Other highlights: B. Thom Stevenson’s hand-crafted weapons, juice from the Green Pirate, ice cream from Coolhaus, and playing with Ann Liv Young and her fabulous daughter, Lovey.
P8: Where next for Art Cart NYC?
HF: We are planning another event for the end of the summer in New York, and then I hope to start organizing Art Cart NYC exhibitions or Truck Yeah meet ups in other “mobile friendly” cities like Los Angeles.