Atlanta Life and Culture

The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.

Curator shaping MLK-inspired ‘Dream’ for Flux Night at new site in Oct.

As curator of the fifth Flux Night, and its first outside of the Castleberry Hill neighborhood, Nato Thompson has the major responsibility of turning a dream into reality.

Chief curator of Creative Time, the New York-based outfit known for producing temporary public art in the U.S. and internationally, Thompson has been in Atlanta this week to continue planning for the one-night-only extravaganza of site-specific visual and performance art, Oct. 3 in intown’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.

“Flux Night 2015: Dream,” as the event is being billed this year, is intended as a homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and the area, now the MLK Jr. National Historic Site, that nurtured him through his boyhood.

Flux Night previously attracted more than 20,000 to its original south downtown location in 2013, but the Atlanta nonprofit Flux Projects sought to retool and took a bye in 2014.

Thompson said he and Flux leaders considered many neighborhoods and public spaces, including Piedmont Park, before settling on the O4W/King area.

“It’s nice when you have historically loaded sites because the art can be different things — as opposed to if you just have a nondescript environment, the art has to work hard to produce an environment,” Thompson said. “It’s like you already have the bassline, and everyone can kind of riff along it like jazz. … (At the King site,) the geopolitical, historical narrative is already in the ground.”

That historical narrative in a big way informed the event theme.

“What I like about the name ‘Dream’ is it’s not negative,” Thompson said. “Art is like a dream, and it’s an optimistic show: It’s like, let’s produce a civic environment where we’re all going to be thinking.

Thompson said he expects Flux Night to present 10 “projects, and he’s encouraging the 10 artists or collectives to embrace the “Dream” theme, though he doesn’t want to steer their ideas or constrain their creativity.

The three officially announced participants are:

  • Pedro Reyes of Mexico City, whose projects have included one in 2013 where he converted confiscated firearms into musical instruments, some of which will be displayed and played by Atlanta musicians during Flux Night.

  • Sheila Pree Bright, the Atlanta photographer who Flux commissioned to capture race-related protests in Baltimore, Oakland and Ferguson, Mo. “She’s been documenting the protests on the ground, but … also the civic life, the faces of the 16 and 18 year olds,” Thompson said. “It’s a young movement.” Bright’s pictures will either be projected or blown up and wheat-pasted onto buildings.

  • Jennifer Wen Ma of New York and Beijing, a member of the Beijing Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies’ creative team. The curator said her project is a work in progress. “I think it will be our most technical project …. highly interactive with a large projection of smoke, and people’s voices collectively make this projection change.”

Thompson also revealed other participating artists:

  • San Francisco’s Center for Tactical Magic, which describes itself as “a fusion force summoned from the ways of the artist, the magician, the ninja and the private investigator.”

  • Atlanta visual artist Jessica Scott-Felder, who will create an installation piece in the back yard of MLK’s birth home.

  • Question Bridge: Black Males, a New York-based arts project that poses hard questions to African-American men then transmits their answers publicly to facilitate a dialogue about identity.

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The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.