Drawing inspiration from other community-based arts events, the development, production, and experience of FIGMENT are guided by these 11 principles:
1. Participation: Transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play.
2. Decommodification: FIGMENT seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We will not substitute consumption for experience.
3. Inclusion: Anyone may be a part of FIGMENT; no prerequisites exist for participation except willingness to work and play. We welcome and respect the stranger.
4. Self-Expression: Each individual and collaborating group has unique qualities, and through self-expression can offer a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of others.
5. Self-Reliance: FIGMENT encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
6. Giving: FIGMENT is devoted to acts of gift giving and volunteering. FIGMENT itself is a gift from volunteer artists and event staff, who hope that each participant brings an attitude of giving. Giving does not imply a return or an exchange for something of equal value.
7. Communal Effort: We seek to create an environment ripe for each individual to achieve personal artistic transformation, but the creation of such an environment can be done only through creative cooperation and collaboration.
8. Civic Responsibility: Each participant in FIGMENT is responsible for creating a civil environment for all other participants. We endeavor to produce this event in a way that fosters a civil society and that is socially responsible.
9. Leave No Trace: We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves to leave each place in a better state than we found it.
10. Immediacy: Too often the limit for creative expression is the barrier between our inner selves and the selves that we present to the world. By breaking down that barrier, we can gain a profound appreciation for the opportunities that lie in each time and place.
11. Gratitude: We believe it is important to remind ourselves where we come from, and to appreciate what has been given to us to get us to where we are. We are not entitled to anything, and approach our relations to others from a place of gratitude for their efforts.
FIGMENT is run through the FIGMENT Project 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. While our events and cities may all be different, all FIGMENT activities aim toward our mission. Our mission is to create participatory and inclusive cultural events and experiences that build community and inspire personal and social transformation. Our organization's mission statement is as follows:
"FIGMENT’s mission is to build community through the participatory arts, inspiring personal and social transformation by creating cultural events and experiences in a spirit of participation and inclusion."
Among FIGMENT's aims are to take art out of museums and galleries, invite the public to engage with art, break down the walls between performer and spectator. Or, as a July 2012 article in the BBC Travel section says, "While there are a couple of sculptures not meant for climbing, 'no touching' signs are not to be seen. Everything is meant to be played with. If FIGMENT were a country, it would be the happiest in the world – and I would apply for citizenship immediately."
FIGMENT creates free, volunteer-driven participatory art events that bring together the community in a celebration of art and a culture where everything is possible! FIGMENT seeks to broaden the definition of art, break down the wall between artist and spectator, and encourage everyone to participate.
At each event, the public is invited to play with art that temporarily transforms public spaces into wildly creative places that disappear without a trace.
FIGMENT celebrates an abundance of creativity and passion, challenging artists and our communities to find new ways to create, share, think, and dream.
FIGMENT is for everyone—and very kid- and family-friendly. The event is great for kids! Governors Island is a public place and everything at FIGMENT is appropriate and fun for people of all ages! No precautions necessary... but do bring everything you'd need for a day out! Sunscreen, plenty of water, snacks, et cetera.
FIGMENT is open to all art and all artistic mediums—from opera to decorating cookies (and both have been at FIGMENT before). Art can include performance, street theater, costuming, sculpture, inflatable art, dance, performance art, installations, social experiments, mobile art, workshops, games, community building projects, arts & crafts, sound art, bands & DJs, lectures & seminars on themes of participatory art & culture, and anything else you can imagine!
We invite *everyone* to bring their art. Please do remember that FIGMENT is an event for everyone when deciding on subject matter for your project (while material can be adult-oriented, it should not be child-inappropriate). Also keep in mind that while some forms of art (ex: bands & DJs) are not participatory, we encourage everyone at FIGMENT to figure out a way to make the experience more interactive.
Thinking about the idea of an arts festival on the island, David Koren started to look for a name, something that could anchor the concept of the festival. David was in the shower one morning in late 2005 when the name “FIGMENT” popped into his head. David remembered that Andy Warhol had once been asked what he would like on his tombstone, and he replied, "I always thought I'd like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph, and no name. Well, actually, I'd like it to say 'FIGMENT'."
Famous for his role in New York's artistic heritage and the Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol believed that everyone had it in them to be a star for fifteen minutes. Through his own art, he defined his identity and shaped the world around him. By naming the arts event FIGMENT, it could reference both the great history of art in New York, and also the ephemeral nature of the arts event that was starting to be developed.
FIGMENT focuses primarily on participatory art, art that builds community through sharing, and gets people to interact with one another, talk to each other, create and share experiences together. By participating, we are building important connections and weaving the social fabric that creates community.
FIGMENT was started in New York in 2007 and has expanded to include cities both in the U.S. and abroad. FIGMENT is an event that can happen anywhere people are inspired to bring it! FIGMENT continues to expand its mission to offer free, family-friendly and participatory art to entire communities, removing the barriers of museum and gallery walls and entrance fees, blurring the lines between those who create and those who enjoy art.
FIGMENT began in July 2007 as a free, one-day participatory arts event on Governors Island in New York Harbor with over 2,600 participants. FIGMENT was founded by David Koren, who quickly built a network of collaborators. From that early beginning, we have been expanding in new and exciting ways each year.
In 2008, we added a season-long City of Dreams Minigolf Course on Governors Island as well as a season-long exhibition of interactive art and performance in a building on Governors Island. For the 2008 event, over 200 arts projects were proposed and mapped, over 10,000 participants joined us, and several press outlets wrote about FIGMENT, including another weekend article in The New York Times, as well as pieces in Time Out New York, Gothamist, the New York Post, and the Village Voice.
In 2010 we started expanding FIGMENT to other cities in the US and beyond; we keep growing and expanding to this day. For a full FIGMENT History, click here.
No. FIGMENT is uninterrupted by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. Selling or advertising goods or services is not permitted. Neither our artists nor our planners and staff are paid: Everything at FIGMENT is born from a simple desire to share imagination with each other and the public.
FIGMENT is an entirely free and non-commercial event in which everyone volunteers their time and effort to participate… the organizers, the artists, the participants. Interactions between people are not mediated by commercial transactions of any kind. Everything at FIGMENT is free, and there is no advertising, nothing for sale, and no one insisting that you have to give a donation to participate.
As the Boston team states it: "This event is completely free to the public and yet non-commercial, independently produced by volunteer staff and artists. FIGMENT is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization entirely funded by individual donations and grants. FIGMENT accepts no corporate sponsorship of any kind."
While FIGMENT does not support any commerce at all at our events and exhibitions, there are often other vendors who may be on site at a venue that we may be using, or who may be nearby.
Giving away food and drinks, where permitted by law, is encouraged at FIGMENT. However, no food or drinks may be given away for promotional purposes at FIGMENT. For example, no snack food manufacturers may give out branded samples.
Anyone can submit a project to FIGMENT! Adults, children, professional artists or those looking to create their first piece! Anyone who can bring their project to FIGMENT by their own means and de-install it when the event is over is welcome to submit.
We encourage you to bring projects that you can carry into the site on foot. Projects will not be on our map or schedule, but FIGMENT is about serendipity and discovery so that’s quite all right. Unregistered projects will not have access to power, cannot be stored overnight and cannot be installed in a building or on any structure on the site. Please take your portable project with you when you leave the site and leave no trace.
Leave No Trace or “LNT” is more than just a trendy green catchphrase or a reminder to use trash can; it’s about collectively leaving the space we use better than we received it—and being prepared to accomplish that goal.
The FIGMENT community takes this principle very seriously. Everyone involved in FIGMENT—staff, volunteers, artists and participants—plays a role in upholding this principle. Leaving GI in good condition is critical to our relationship with the island, and to our ability to hold future FIGMENT NYC Weekend events. The FIGMENT curatorial team will be at the event keeping an eye out for projects that are an LNT risk, and will make note of projects that leave a trace. Artists who do not uphold this
principle will not be invited to participate in future FIGMENT events.
That said, with proper consideration and planning, LNT should not be a problem if you follow these guidelines.
Planning your project
Look out for MOOP!
We have a term for the “trace” that’s left behind—MOOP. MOOP stands for “Matter Out Of Place,” and is more than just litter.
Design your project to avoid MOOP
Designing your project to be MOOP-proof is the best way to Leave No Trace and give yourself peace of mind. A set of postcards or feathers from a boa can go from art to MOOP with a gust of wind. Here are some materials you should think carefully about before using them:
- Feathers, paper, cardboard It blows away easily and doesn’t hold up to rain. How will you handle weather situations?
- Glass breaks easily into tiny little bits that are not easy to clean up
- Paint is MOOP if it doesn’t land on your project. Paint on the grass, buildings, or pavement is MOOP. Paint that gets on a participant who then tracks it around the island is MOOP. Paint that spills in transit around the island is MOOP. If your project involves painting by either you or participants, make sure the area in which you are working is protected with tarps, that participants won’t track paint with them, AND that your paint won’t spill during transit.
Plan for a MOOP emergency
Okay, so you have some MOOPy materials, but you’ve taken precautions to ensure they won’t become MOOP. Now imagine something goes wrong, and a participant breaks something or uses your project in an unintended manner, and you’ve got MOOP. What materials do you need on hand to clean it up? Plan to bring them, and plan to have help on hand if you might need it. In general, FIGMENT has limited cleaning materials and resources to assist artists with MOOP problems.
Pack it in, pack it out. Anything your project leaves behind on the island after deinstall is MOOP. GI does provide some trash cans around the park for visitors to deposit their litter. They are not designed to accommodate trash from the hundreds of projects that comprise FIGMENT. If your project generates waste or if your project is designed to be thrown out after the event, consider how you might reduce or eliminate that waste. If you must generate waste, have a plan to pack it out with you.
If, for some reason, your project has special disposal needs or you can’t take it with you, your curator
can work with you on a disposal plan.
At the event
Everyone is responsible for the MOOP around them
When we encounter MOOP, we don’t worry about where it came from, we just pick it up. Even if it’s a napkin from someone’s lunch that blew away in the wind and landed near you, just grab it and put it in the trash. MOOP attracts more MOOP.
Perform MooP sweeps for high-traffic projects and eventsIf your project is designed to attract and hold a large number of people who stick around for a while—for example, a DJ, workshop, large participatory event, or large-scale installation—expect people to leave MOOP behind. You should plan to have your project team sweep your area after an event or
throughout the day for MOOP.
Have MOOP bags
We recommend you have a plastic bag handy in which to put MOOP that accumulates around your project during install, the event, and deinstall. Have enough bags to hand out to everyone on your team.
Don’t let it hit the ground
When you’re installing or deinstalling your project, sometimes it’s easier to toss parts like nails or bolts on the ground and pick them up later. But that makes them harder to find later, especially in grass. Put down a tarp or have a bucket ready if you have small parts to collect.
Do a final MooP sweep to complete your deinstall
You are responsible for MOOP in the immediate area of your project, regardless of who put it there. Whether it’s a nail from your project or a napkin from someone’s lunch, please do a MOOP sweep to make sure your project’s area is free of MOOP to complete your deinstall.