Monday, July 18, 2011

OCF: scaffolding


Fair. What can I say? It’s magic. And everybody says that. So what can I say that other people haven’t?


Well, as a picture maker I can say this: it was a sweet, blessed relief to be in a world that understands the need for whimsy. From the admission gates made to look like the heads of dragons to the simple shapes set up near the bank of the Long Tom River, aesthetic playfulness was there at every turn.


It was good to see playfulness. To see giant stars made of kite material lit up at night and in the early morning by Christmas lights. To see a bench surrounded by a wicker creature. To see people walking around in tree costumes. It seemed no visual field was left unadorned. Even the recycling kiosks were all distinct and interesting. There's a kind of acknowledgement of the spiritual there -- and I don’t mean just the knee-jerk hippie woo-woo kind of spiritual. I just mean that hunger for colors and shapes that we recognize in children. Grown-ups have that hunger too -- and probably need it even more than children do, in the face of their busy, messy lives. But rarely does one see it in quite the way one saw it at Fair, and it was lovely to behold.

chela mela

I know a lot of people see Fair as a throw-back to Woodstock, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. I don’t think it would have endured this long if it was just about a lot of burnt out hippies. All the pieces fit too neatly together. The dust gets bad, so there is a water crew that keeps the road sprayed down. There are barrels of water around for the vendors to attend to their own paths. There is a fanatical commitment to using every resource and not over consuming, so there is a truck that picks up wood -- old timbers, usable sticks -- and takes it to what is essentially a giant filing cabinet near the compost barn to sort them out. There are shelves for every kind of thing they find. So when the construction crew needs to build a new vendor-space, or fence, or recycling kiosk, the wood is ready and waiting. When de-construction pulls the extra things back at the end of the week, (the traffic control chairs, the extra fences, the sign posts) the wood goes back to the filing cabinet. Ready and waiting for next year.


I’m not ready to be back in civilization. It took me a few days to really click into the rhythm of the place -- it’s so different from regular life. Now that I’m there it’s hard for me to click back out. I sort of hope I don’t, actually. I’ve not felt so calm and wonderful in a long time. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, it’s just what happens when you are around a group of people that assume the best of everyone.