“IF YOU BUILD IT, they will come.” It’s a misquotation, of course, the correct line being “If you build it, he will come,” but the Bruce High Quality Foundation clearly had more than a solitary spectral ballplayer in mind when they borrowed the title of Phil Alden Robinson’s movie Field of Dreams. Joining forces with producer Andres Levin and operating under the Celebrate Brooklyn! banner, the wry collective took over Prospect Park’s bandshell on a recent Saturday for an afternoon of performance, installation, and music. Pursuing its stated aim of “fostering an alternative to everything,” the BHQF invited a motley selection of individuals and groups to stake their claims on the park’s sun-bleached turf, and the results were an odd but entertaining counterpoint to the more predictable shenanigans onstage.
Identifying who was responsible for which project proved challenging; while each work was marked with a numbered chair, this often seemed to be the extent of available information. Still, a few did include helpful handouts. The Buenaventura Watershed Hydraulic Model National Park’s was the first I picked up and also turned out to be the best. Accompanying a rough but colorful topographic mock-up, it traced the haphazard mapping of “ambulatory” geographical boundaries by early American cartographers, describing the conception of a mythical Western river to rival the Mississippi and angling for its revival. Less conscientiously annotated attractions nearby included a daisy-filled paddling pool with a solar-powered fountain and a cluster of pastel-colored sandwich boards inscribed with allusive phrases like GREEN HANDS AND FACES, THE WHITE TENEMENT, and PLAYING SOLDIERS.
Despite the best efforts of an unbroken succession of competent but unexciting bands—most played mercifully short sets—artists were still able, for the most part, to make themselves heard. Ari Richter persisted with his Introduction to Art Marathon throughout the event, lecturing animatedly to a small but attentive group of students inside a makeshift tent. Kirilian Realized Analog Projections (K.R.A.P.), under a sign reading THE DOCTOR IS HERE FOR YOUR NEEDS. THE ARTISTS WILL REALIZE YOU VISUALLY, offered complimentary dream interpretation in spoken, written, and sketched form to a stream of reclining subjects. And an unnamed performer with a megaphone asked any and all passersby to join him in a continuous celebration of self: “Who wants to be the best person in the world? What about you, sir, in the yellow?”
Most Field of Dreams presenters veered toward a similarly participatory ethic and a cheerfully homemade look. At the ³Satan¹s Psychic² piñata stall, blindfolded participants thrashed wildly away at jerry-rigged approximations of ’planes, cameras, bananas, and other objects, their every connection accompanied by cheers and a cymbal crash. Kate Pane and Valerie Sutter’s Can We Become My Little Ponies trumpeted a still-more DIY approach, presenting younger visitors with a tempting array of cut-’n’-paste ingredients. But there were a few more pared-down contributions. Terry Hempfling and Phoebe Morris’s Societal Enchanted Dance and the Interior and Rachel Garrard’s Geometric Void both featured mute, white-clad performers going through assorted more-or-less enigmatic motions, the former piece involving synchronized poses and intertwined limbs, the latter a conscientious rendering of diagrammatic lines onto a large Plexiglas sheet.
As the evening wore on and a girl-boy duo called Hank and Cupcakes took to the stage, demanding “some party vibe” from the lighting technician before launching into an ill-advised funked-up cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control,” some competing music caught my ear. Its source was an unmarked black van with windows lined in tin foil. Crouched inside and competing for space with two large amps was a band—notably featuring two sax players—cranking out frenetic improvised noise. An unsettling apology from Cupcakes—“Sorry guys, I’ve just got sick all over the microphone”—was unconnected with the aural duel but made the marginal act seem still more appealing. Only an obtuse speech from the Foundation itself—seemingly delivered by an unmanned lectern—finally brought attention back to the stage. “Breathe as you’ve never breathed before,” it urged. “Let the methane of humanity run rampant in your bloodstream like pillaging Vikings, like rioting soccer fans, like a mother hell-bent on ruining your life, on making you suffer for all the injustices the world laid at her door. Knock on the door. It will open. The rest is history. Good night.”