Knoxville Artists Mix Form, Function at Bonnaroo

The Knoxville Museum of Art in conjunction with local artists developed ideas for drawing concertgoers to central art locations.

The challenge was simple yet daunting: how do you create centralized community centers throughout the sprawling Bonnaroo Music and Art Festival campground that are both inviting and useful? Where would you go if you needed medical attention or if you just wanted to hang out in the shade? How do you make it interactive yet informative?

AC Entertainment turned to the Knoxville Museum of Art to help develop ideas for drawing concertgoers to these central locations. KMA's Chris Molinski connected with several Knoxville artists to work on proposals for these areas, or pods, that will serve as hubs for everything from recycling to lost-and-found centers. The results are unorthodox, visionary, and collaborative site-specific plans that will unfold in interesting ways.

It's not surprising that artist Sarah Shebaro chose to use old audio and video cassette tape as her chief material; her body of work often focuses on the seamless melding of art and music. She and her team collected mounds of tape that will help form a temporary "disco shelter" from the sun and heat. Festival-goers are encouraged to bring their own tapes to use in the structure, which is expected to reach 20 feet high. Shebaro will also use sounds throughout her pod to create a full-on multimedia experience.

Artist Jacob Stanley is no stranger to the perils of public art. A recent site-specific environmental work in Maryville was vandalized after Stanley worked on it for four days. But at Bonnaroo, Stanley's two pods will require participation to be successful. His analog hub pod serves as a makeshift cave full of chalkboards upon which everyone is encouraged to write messages, while his tensile tent reacts to tension. Stanley will install an intricate set of pulleys to the vast fabric panels that will allow the tent to change form at the participant's will.

True to its community spirit and DIY approach, Knoxville's Birdhouse collective, led by printmaker Katie Ries, will have an on-site sewing station for part of its project. Housed in a homemade and hand-harvested bamboo fortress, the Birdhouse will be trading Bonnaroo attendees' old fabric scraps and clothing for hand-printed satin patches. The scraps collected will be used in assembling a cloth banner that will serve as a document of the festival's attendees. I have a feeling the Birdhouse will have one of the most highly utilized pods; who wouldn't want an instant hand-made souvenir?

Husband and wife team Jason Brown and Elizabeth Scofield looked to nature for inspiration for their shade-garden pod. Large-scale nylon grasses and colorful flower forms will result in an Alice in Wonderland-like garden that responds to natural elements. The 16-foot blades of grass can even be grouped together to develop a private area. Much like a Jeff Koons sculpture, Brown and Scofield's pods, sure to be seen from across the festival grounds, rely on scale to make an impact.

It's no secret that thousands of festival attendees will generate tons of recyclable waste while on the grounds, and artist and architect Matt Hall addresses this concern in his DIS_ASSEMBLY LINE. Hall will use everyday trash as a source material for building a structure that will obstruct and alter the Bonnaroo experience. His team will also help reconfigure waste materials into seating or other forms. Hall's pod will force viewers to rethink their consumption and waste, a disturbing counterpoint to the festival's overall carefree tone. Depending on how much material is collected and how it is used, Hall could potentially end up with a McMansion-sized structure made entirely of plastic and glass.

I'm certain that each artist is relying on the help of many friends and colleagues to realize his or her elaborate plans. But the effort and time will pay off with some provocative results and heightened exposure for some of Knoxville's most visionary artists. If all goes as planned, this will be additional proof that amazing things happen when we turn to art for solutions.