What was your inspiration for the RedBall Project?
The piece came directly out of working with an urban site for a commission. I had been offered an opportunity to develop an idea for one of three sites in St. Louis through the Arts in Transit program. I kept coming back to this ugly area, underneath an overpass with a bit of gravel on the ground. It had clearly been offered up because it was one of those leftover spots in a city, but I was drawn to the way the concrete bridge merged into the earth and the space it created. RedBall came out of my thinking about that space, and how to show what I was seeing. After many false starts I drew this huge red sphere under the bridge, and laughed out loud. I felt like that was it.
Red invites a sense of play. Red is the color of energy and love. It’s always been red, even when I first drew it.
How many RedBalls are there?
There is only one RedBall.
How big is it?
The RedBall weighs 250lbs or 113kg, with or without the air. It is approximately 15 feet or 4.5 metres high. The project is worldwide, so it is essentially big in two ways.
Do the locations of the RedBall remain a secret?
No. Sometimes we hold the announcement of the sites in a city secret while everything is prepared. However, before the performance begins, the sites are always announced to the public and press. Often it is announced first via the project’s email updates, Facebook and Twitter pages, so follow along!
How do the locations get chosen?
I travel to each city far in advance to find the sites. The selection of sites is the creation of the artwork. The ball is only an object, the performance is the joining of site+audience to it. As a process, I go to each city, a year in advance usually, and literally walk and bike the streets looking. I carry a camera, a sketchbook, and a laser meter and go exploring a city, getting very lost, over and over.
What I am looking for is a collection of sites that together might make a great project. Some sites offer architectural excitement or history, others are at a nexus of pedestrian energy. I am always hunting for great sun and the chance for surprise. Really seeing is an active state. For the serious RedBall site hunters out there, check out a book by Christopher Alexander called A Pattern Language; it’s a codex of the psychology of our architectural environment.
How can I bring the RedBall Project to my city?
Generally the project is invited by a local cultural partner that supports the work. The RedBall Project has been underwritten or sponsored by various partners including festivals, city public art programs, national grants, art institutions, and even private individuals. If you are an institution that is interested, I would be happy to speak with you. The project is often planned a year in advance or more to allow time for my research trip to find all the sites, and permission them.
RedBall seems to encourage play and invite humor, why is that important ?
In making a public work I am very conscious of the history of sculpture in public places, its origins in monuments, and how that leads – for better or worse – into a perception of what public art should be today. RedBall is riffing on all that static mass in the permanent hierarchy, and instead exploring the living space of a city. The urban environment is overbuilt and full of possibilities, and the project is about seeing and playing with the sculptural spaces of a city. The humor and charisma of the piece allow it access to the city and invites others into its story. I think it’s essential for public work to do more than be ‘outdoors’ – it needs to live in the public’s imagination. Simply being placed in public space does not make a work public in the communal sense. Scale, tactility, physical presence – these are all tools of sculpture and here they are used as an invitation. Creating a sense of play is serious business.
Why is it so different in each city?
When the project has performed, that specific uniqueness becomes clear because it’s the public that really creates the story of a city. When I look back at where the project has been, certain sites stand out, but beyond that, reaction is driven by the public on the street. In the end, art is about people, and I look forward to seeing how each city responds to the invitation RedBall offers. The project is not about a ball; it’s about what the combination of the site, the piece, and everyone’s energy creates together in that day.
Is travel important to the project?
The project traveled from the very start. After its launch in St. Louis, I was frustrated by the constraints of not being able to move it through the city. So, I took it to Barcelona and through Can Serrat met the artist Art Larson and the curator Jeffery Schwartz. We became friends and they really helped make it happen and bring in more friends. The sense of motion it has in a performance – of moving through a city – is echoed in how it moves around the world. This journey and its travels is very much part of how the piece is experienced at an imaginative level.
Are RedBall street installations legal or illegal?
For it’s European premiere in Barcelona it was all illegal street installations except the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) site. It was, in some ways, the real beginning of RedBall, and the first time it moved through a city the way I had imagined.
Now, the project is often working with a festival or cultural programmer, so we obtain permissions, which allows me to tell fans, “it will be at that spot on Saturday” and we make sure it is. The work’s history lives in both worlds, so I don’t rule anything ou