Good Grief

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This blog post is all about problems, miscalculations, re-assessments, and sketchiness.

It’s also about innovation, re-calculation, brainstorming, and compromise.

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Shawn Gannon, “Project Manager”

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Jay “Hammer Heal” Hawkins, “Master of Transportation”

Installing NEW MOON for the Luminosity Ball last weekend began as a reasonable pursuit. Our team was onsite, good to go, and the sculpture seemed ready for action. We’d never actually assembled the entire package, but hypothetically everything was designed to work.

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Part of the nature of site-specific art is the necessity of constant adaptation. There’s a certain amount you can’t know in advance – you just need to react to your environment, materials, tools, and location. Wayne Garrett is a very adaptable and innovative thinker, and luckily, so is our team, or we never would have made it through the installation of NEW MOON.

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Photo by Rose McCallum

On the day of install, it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did. Trucks didn’t start, materials were heavy and awkward, nothing fit where it was supposed to, and it was cold (very cold by Kentucky standards) making everything just a tad more miserable.

Loading the bulbed portion of NEW MOON into a truck required some last-minute phone calls after the first truck wouldn’t start due to low temperatures. Because each hemisphere of the moon is larger than the standard measurements of a box truck, each half had to be diagonally lifted through the gate. The company that ended up transporting the piece was helpful, but they laughed when they saw the sculpture, saying that it’s actually against official company policy to transport anything that includes light bulbs. Luckily, they did it anyway.

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Thanks to a great deal of muscle-power and help from a handful of BCTC students, NEW MOON’s parts all made it onsite, and the team spent a good deal of time negotiating new challenges. Such as: is the ceiling high enough to avoid accidentally taking out the track lighting with a steel pole? (Answer: luckily, yes.)

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Can Jay hold his balance while perched precariously on a ladder and holding awkward objects in both hands? (Answer: luckily, yes.)

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Can Wayne avoid motion sickness while repeatedly riding a man-lift up and down while wielding ridiculous objects? (Answer: luckily, yes.)

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And, finally, the real question: OK, now that this crazy cage structure is built, what happens next? How can we (safely) get the Moon inside the thing?

By the way, I should point out that the diameter of the moon is actually too big to fit between each leg of the cage. Our only option was to move each individual hemispheres inside one at a time and assemble the moon inside the structure. Yes, that seems like a good plan.

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I don’t have pictures of this part of the process, but it was a soundscape of yelling, breaking glass, grunting, more yelling, and more breaking glass. Each hemisphere weighs about 400 lbs, is incredibly awkward to carry, and needed to be turned uncomfortably sideways to squeeze between the bars of the cage. Generally, this was a god-awful and traumatic game of tetrus.

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To comfort ourselves, we did a mental re-count and realized that even if we broke thirty or forty light bulbs, it’s still just a fraction of the 5,000-6,000 still intact. Nonetheless, it was a sketchy and mildly dangerous move, although the next move was comparatively far worse.

We knew there would be some points in the process that we hadn’t anticipated, and what happened next was one of them. How were we going to attach both halves of the moon to create one big sphere? To make a long story short, we decided to connect the hemispheres via a chain wrapped around an extension arm on the forklift, and pull them up until the halves gently came together, allowing Wayne to insert pre-welded nuts and bolts. Easy peasy, right?

Even with tons of help, sometimes you reach a critical point when you realize that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Something becomes too heavy, too awkward, to hard to hold, and it slips through your fingers. This is what happened with both halves of the moon once the forklift elevated them to a past an unforeseen threshold, and they came crashing together like a giant cartoon cymbal. And while (luckily) nobody got caught in the middle, this was about the time when I silently swore that we will never build anything this heavy, delicate or immobile ever again.

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At this point, we also noticed something else we hadn’t anticipated. Suspended from one point, the weight of the light bulbs was substantial enough to pull the moon into an egg shape, warping the sub-frame, and complete misaligning vital nuts and bolts required to hold the two halves together. Try as we might with crow bars, cursing, wishing, and sneaking up on it, it seemed like the bolts would never slip into place…

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Let’s just say that we eventually figured it out.

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Let’s just say that it took hours.

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Let’s just say that there were dozens of other problems, miscalculations, re-assessments, and bits of sketchiness that stretched all night, on through dawn, and right up until about 2 pm the following afternoon – six hours before the ball.

Let’s just say, all’s well that ends well.

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Or, better yet, let’s just say Thank You to our new pals for staying all night, helping us finish some amazingly frustrating tasks, holding the faith, finding solutions, losing sleep, and ultimately making dead sure that the stupidest and grumpiest install of our young art careers wasn’t a total loss. Thank you to the LAL team and interns for emotional support, hands, and patience. Thanks to our intern and buddy Jay Hawkins for long hours and unwavering “Hammer Heal” help. Thank you to Shawn Gannon for his expertise, stubborn work-ethic, and relentless support. (Thanks also to Stephanie Gannon for letting us keep her husband out past 4 am…). Thanks to Becky Alley for staying with us all night even though she has a wee baby at home who she knew would already be awake by the time she walked in the door, dreadfully un-ready for a day of Momming (Mom hours. Those count extra, yo).

People say stuff like this all the time, but this project really couldn’t have happened without these people and many more. So while this blog post is all about problems, it’s also about realizing that the solution isn’t an individual pursuit, it’s a collaborative attitude adjustment, and you’re never in it alone. Two heads are better than one. Many hands make light work. Etc, etc.

Cheezy? Yes. True? Luckily, yes.

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3 thoughts on “Good Grief

  1. You said it all in the credit given to the lateral thinkers and supporter that your and Wayne’s genius and charisma attract.

  2. Pingback: How to move the MOON | CLOUD

  3. Pingback: New Moon | Deadly Computer Blog

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