Bucketworks [Poietis Factorium Maximus]

By - Nov 1st, 2003 02:52 pm
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By The Uncultured Bacterium

After wandering the parking lot, you settle on the only nearby entrance — a side door with no sign on it. Inside, you look over what seems to be the loading dock of a warehouse that goes a long way back. On the way in, you say hello to the guard in the security booth, and ask him if you’re in the right place.

Cleverly camouflaged behind the dirty glass, it takes a second to realize you’re actually talking to a cardboard cutout.

Since June of 2002, Bucketworks has been in a converted factory building at 1319 N. Martin Luther King Drive in Milwaukee. It’s not an art gallery — though it does offer one. It’s not a theater, though plays are produced there. It’s not a craftshop or art studio, though it it’s lavishly equipped for both. It’s not even a party room, though it’s been used for that. In a clever use of the Chaos Theory derived idea of “fuzzy logic,” it can be said that Bucketworks is… whatever you want it to be.

Buckets of space in which to play.

According to its brochure, Bucketworks offers communal art workshops and emergent learning classes in a wide variety of areas, working with emerging Milwaukee artists to create, exhibit and perform new work, helped along by an all-volunteer staff. The founders of Bucketworks are James Carlson, Alexi Easton and Melissa Merline, who took advantage of an unexpected opportunity and ran with it. Carlson, a self-described tech guy, had the idea, decided to fund it himself, then called his old boss at the 1319 N. MLK Building and ran the idea by him. Turned out that the business was downsizing and the bottom floor was available. He then brought in Alexi, who majored in communications, and Melissa, who has a long background of volunteer work, and will soon be attending Alverno College.

The trio now had a very impressive 8,000 square feet of space to play with, along with all sorts of, well, stuff. Stuff that the previous business had left behind, which they now keep in an area they called The Found Objects Library. If you ever saw the episode of The Simpsons where Bart buys a factory and finds himself with all sorts of new industrial toys, you get the idea of what’s in there. They organized everything into three general areas — The Gallery, where works are exhibited; The Playspace, a versatile area that can be a theater, dance hall, party room or mob art creation area (depending on how it’s configured); and the spectacularly appointed Workshop, which is further subdivided into “factories” that cover just about every artistic or creative discipline known to man (though I did note the absence of a forge and foundry). There’s the Sound Factory; the Change Factory, which includes silkscreen equipment; the Thing Factory, which includes woodworking tools — a 50�cale Basilosaurus was under construction when I visited; the Vision Factory for 2-D work in oils, crayons and watercolor; and the Media Factory, with extensive computer equipment for web design and other activities.

Buckets of ways to express your art.

The first event in the space was a game of hide and seek — in the dark. In August of 2002 they held their first class. Personal Alchemy is billed as a weekly class just about — you. Taught every Monday at 7 p.m., participants can discover seeing, describing and creating their own artwork, using material from the Found Objects Library if they like. Dancing, painting, writing, photography, woodworking, drawing, and sculpting are some of the activities people can play at — and I mean literally play. Personal Alchemy is available to anybody regardless of ability or background.

More events followed. In May of 2003, Bucketworks hosted the Guerrilla Gallery, Retrosexuality II, which featured the erotic paintings and installations of various local Milwaukee artists. In July and August, S-Martinko staged the first play, Reverb, a rewrite of Jean-Paul Sarte’s No Exit. Bucketwork’s access to multi-media equipment added remarkable production values to the show.

They started a flag football team (That’s art — right?) They created Emergency Schools, an endeavor best described by example. On April 9 of 2003, an electronic voice began broadcasting at The Node, a coffee shop on North Avenue, that people were needed for an Emergency School at Bucketworks. All they had to do was hop on the bus that had been hired to ferry people directly from the coffeeshop to the studio, where they engaged in an hour of Emergency Creation before being ferried back. Before the day was out, they had filled three buses. The artwork created is still displayed at Bucketworks.

So remember: be on the alert at anytime. A creative emergency may require your immediate attention.

The eyes of the world are (literally) on Bucketworks.

They also got involved in The Gaia Project, the planned creation of a photomosaic of the planet Earth made from 10,000 human eyes and 200,000 images from space. In the 1960s, scientist James Lovelock was asked by NASA to design experiments that would detect life on Mars. He found that the red planet was a lifeless equilibrium — a place well in balance with itself, and likely to stay that way. He then viewed Earth through the same experiments, and began thinking that what he was seeing was not so much a planet adorned with diverse life forms, but a creature with self-evolving and self-regulating life processes. He came up with the name Gaia, after the Greek goddess who brought forth the living world from chaos since, as near as he could tell, the Earth itself was a living organism that eats, sleeps, breeds, breathes and excretes. All the life forms we know are simply components of a giant living and sentient being in the shape of our planet.

Through 2004, pictures of the eyes of approximately 10,000 people from around the world will be taken with a digital camera and simultaneously displayed on a projection screen, so that subjects can see their eyes about eight feet in diameter. Students from local public schools, including Milwaukee, will also be involved in obtaining the images, which will be used to discuss racism and how the people of the earth are a continuum of color; writing short stories, and examining the theory that Earth itself is a living thing. This multidisciplinary project will culminate in a mural executed by the students, highlighting the aesthetic beauty of our eyes as well as describing the scientific understandings gained of vision and our world.

When conforming just won’t do…

Stop in for Subversive Sundays. Each week features first a short film, documentary, or presentation focused on problems faced by everyone. During the middle portion of the evening, a film, documentary or presentation focuses on the positive: actions being taken by people working to make things better, followed by a moderated discussion of more actions that can be taken. It was here they got the idea of doing Flashmobs. Flashmobs first started in NYC, and are sort of like an old hippie “happening,” though much shorter. In one example, mysterious emails suddenly appeared in people’s mailboxes, telling people to show up at a particular coffee shop on Brady Street at a certain time on a certain day, make a cellphone call saying “I’m at XX coffee shop,” and leave. Some 150 people participated in that one. Others are planned — watch your email box carefully.

Formalizing their structure as they go along, Bucketworks has a 503.3c non-profit status pending, and is hoping for future grants and donations. A kaleidoscope of other classes are now held at 8:00 every night in the different factories, taught by different teachers.

If you’re interested in teaching a class, or booking space at Bucketworks, call 414-305-1324. Creating or teaching art (you decide what that is), mounting a play, arranging an “event” — that’s a pretty open term — all are welcome. Except for bands looking for a venue to practice or play in. There are already plenty of those.



From November 3-6, in a continuation of the first of a monthly show series, the complete works of Lisa Eder are displayed. It includes all of her art from early childhood to today in chronological order, along with written materials, journals, and other personal artifacts that influenced the development of her artistry. This show is the first in a series of artist shows that explore the development of local artists, and is designed to encourage greater participation in the artistic process from our community’s youth as well as established artists. Displayed from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Hypnogogic Art runs on November 14, 15, 17 through 22, and November 24 through 26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Various artists’ works are on display, exploring the concept of the hypnogogic state. For more on what, exactly, that is, check out this month’s Vital Culture feature story on page 6.

Subversive Sundays, 7 p.m.

Every Monday is Personal Alchemy Class, 7 p.m.

Friday, November 7 at 6 p.m. is the Action Planning Session for Buy Nothing Day, a creative protest against the obvious over-consumption of Western culture. Adbusters sounded the alarm several years ago, and the action has been growing stronger since. If you’re a concerned citizen and want to participate in Buy Nothing Day, come to Bucketworks to learn more.

For other classes or events offered, see their web page at www.bucketworks.org.

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