A Fantastical Stroll through FIGMENT Boston

Posted July 31, 2015 by Louis Roe in Theater & Arts

Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway provides our urban landscape with a splash of nature all summer long—but last weekend, it truly came to life as artists, thespians, dancers, and musicians took up residence across the gardens for FIGMENT Boston, two days of creative collaboration.

The Greenway became a playground for young and old alike with attractions such as RAYNBO RODE, “a visual monolith of our psychedelic future”; an interactive oriental dance performance led by Seyyide Sultan and Sarab-Mirage; and an enormous wooden typewriter!

We started near Christopher Columbus Park after a leisurely brunch in the North End, lured southward by tantalizing rhythms and jangling tambourines.  A line of dancers snaked across the park, inviting passersby to join in. Just beyond them, the Jamaica Plain Honk Band delivered a rousing set atop the Blunderwood Portable, a 24:1 scale enlargement of the 1927 Underwood Standard Portable Typewriter.  We’d later run into them again, winding up and down the sidewalks with trombones, saxophones, and a tiny drum set.

Further down the Greenway, children constructed faces from the colorful shapes clinging to the RAYNBO RODE installation, a series of glittering panels bearing an array of interactive delights. In another corner of the display, the Gift Econo-Box offered a lost-and-found of one man’s trash, another’s treasure, each item left behind by a guest for the consideration of the next. We only snuck a quick peek under the lid—some mysteries may be better left to the imagination!

Another significant aspect of FIGMENT is the discussion of our interaction with the environment, how we can creatively engage with nature while “leaving no trace.”  Mother Earth herself made an appearance at the event with a little help from the Puppeteer Cooperative, roaming irritably through the streets while muttering under her breath.  Her accompanying nursemaid paused to complain to any who would listen to the tales of her suffering.  Fortunately, both were content to pose for a quick photo at the corner of Pearl Street.

We also walked through a forest of trees reconstructed from the cross-sections of different trees and colorful piping, prompting viewers to consider the commodification of natural resources in a playful environment.  A few feet away, a former electrician hovered over a homemade laminar flow water jet creating a fountain where toddlers splashed and intercepted the arching water.

On the far end of the Greenway by Dewey Square, DJs bumped lively beats all day long to a lawn crawling with dancers, hula-hoopers, and loungers.  One woman sporting the entirety of Alice In Wonderland in tattoos across her body dipped a loop of rope into a bucket, then drew it out to release an enormous shimmering bubble that rose and wriggled into the sky, dozens of mesmerized faces reflecting off its iridescence.

Even as we left the festival, the JP Honk Band, Mother Earth, and theater troupes spilled out into the streets of Boston, leaving us with a lingering sense the creative energy was in no way bound to the Greenway, or even that weekend.  On Monday, these artists would return to their day jobs, their desks and their counters—but the wonderful thing about FIGMENT is that all its participants are local.  Downtown Boston thrives with whimsical, innovative, and enriching ingenuity around every corner, inspiring attendees to pick up paintbrushes and PVC pipes and bring their own imaginative fantasies to life.  We can’t wait to see what our community dreams into existence next year!