Storytime: Make and Take

Last month there was a solid week where I parceled my life into a series of 3 hour and 44 minute increments.

This time-keeping exercise was not to the detriment of my occupation, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t made slight adjustments to my morning commute, disappeared for coffee at oddly specific times throughout the day, and given honest thought to a brisk morning run.. At 3:17AM.

And as bizarre as this behavior may seem given the ‘why’, I was not alone in my pursuit. Over the course of my measured week, I met teachers, bus drivers, reporters, executives, newlyweds, tourists, school children, scientists and chefs who had also been watching the clock.

There were no complimentary Red Sox tickets or golden Wonka Bars to be had at the end of this rainbow. Rather, the ‘why’ whose siren song had captivated the hearts and Outlook reminders of Bostonians from across the city..

..just so happened to be a palm-sized plastic rooster.

———————————————

I am willing to wait for the laughter to subside.

Every 3 hours and 44 minutes for the next year, Make and Take, an interactive installation created by Somerville artist Chris Templeman in partnership with the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and New American Public Art, is producing and dispensing a small 3D printed red rooster that is yours for the taking..

..if you happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Make and Take is the third in a series of programs in Chinatown Park, overseen by Greenway curator Lucas Cowan, that honor and celebrate the Chinese Zodiac; Don Kennell’s Monkey See (2016) and Kyu Seok Oh’s Wandering Sheep (2015) were the former residents of the park.

Templeman’s work manages at once to embody a respect for the past, be engaged with the present and introduce a boundless view of the future. The red spools of plastic filament which create the rooster’s plumage serve as a nod to the color’s associations with joy and good luck in traditional Chinese culture, and the design of the figure itself is derived from a 3D scan of an ancient Chinese porcelain artifact from the Museum of Fine Arts’ East Asia collection.

And so shortly before January 28th this year, Templeman’s installation whirred to life as we said goodbye to the Year of the Monkey and ushered in the Year of the Rooster. Not unlike the famous December 31st ball drop festivities in Times Square, this celebratory shift at the end of January is commonly associated with good fortune, hope, happiness, fresh starts and new beginnings.

And as someone who had found themselves languishing in a post-inaugural haze.. slowly grinding their teeth into a fine silt.. sporadically flickering between outrage and catatonia…..

..I just so happened to be in the market for some good fortune, hope, happiness, fresh starts and new beginnings!

On my initial visit (in my best mourning/Trinity attire), I was first on the scene as the tiny bird began to take shape.

I’m never this lucky. Had the rooster’s good juju already started to rub off on me? I wondered.

My reality check came swiftly as I was approached by a friendly passerby who presented his own red rooster trophy from earlier in the week.

He then asked if I was really planning to stay for the entire time.

..?

Since googling is overrated, this was the moment I discovered my ‘quick 5-10 minute coffee break’ was more of a 4 hour hypothermic sit-in if I were to stay from claw to comb.

And this wasn’t how I was supposed to die.*

(*THIS was how I was supposed to die.)

We briefly exchanged non-rooster pleasantries as I gathered my belongings: how his day was going, how my day was going. My new friend was homeless, yet he seemed happier than most people I know whose homes have four walls and a roof.

His unwavering optimism and silver lining perspective was a nice reminder that not all was lost. It certainly made me rethink the pity party I had been drowning in for some time.

Our conversation was a reminder of the power of art; not only does it shock us, amuse us, or move us to tears, but in this instance it was simply able to bring two people together who might not otherwise have met.

It warmed my wintry heart to know that 1 of the 2,017 roosters now had a home and a treasured place among this man’s possessions.

He had officially become an art collector.

Despite its tech-centric nature, Make and Take manages to strike a very human chord: art is for everyone.

Templeman’s work demonstrates how fairly affordable technologies can assist in the democratization of everyday design, manufacturing and fabrication processes, and also by extension, create new access points for viewers to explore and engage with art.

“With technologies like the 3D printer used for Make and Take, individuals can now produce objects once made exclusively by wealthy enterprises. Make and Take shines a light on how accessible technologies make it possible for everyone to design and realize their ideas with significantly fewer resources. In encountering Make and Take, the public is invited to view a marvel of modern technology: the ability to ‘print’ physical objects. The 3D printer, while remaining to be a curiosity, can be purchased for the cost of a laptop. It is on its way to democratizing manufacturing and fabrication just as the computer and the Internet have democratized information. “

On the visits that followed my Make and Take maiden voyage, I may not have been first on the scene, but the unscripted encounters with fellow timekeepers continued to add much needed levity to my days. From the Devil Wears Prada-esque executive born in the year of the rooster who considered paying an intern to stand outside for her, to the teenager (and true american hero) who clued me in on a Big Mac vending machine in Kenmore Square, or even the MBTA bus driver who had high hopes of returning from his Waltham route in time for the 2:44PM rooster, these little windows into other people’s lives enriched my own and reminded me of the good in others.

If the rooster was awaiting my arrival on Day 1, I would have never met the art collector, or any of the former-strangers that followed. What I had anticipated would become a mindless pursuit to distract me from POTUS, proved to be something far more fulfilling.

Ultimately, it was the experiences surrounding the work that transcended the eventual possession of the art object itself.

The quest for the palm-sized plastic rooster had given us clockwatchers permission to be playful again; a reason to lower the walls we had built for ourselves and an opportunity to connect for a few midday moments where the world felt a little less bleak.

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