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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Leap Year Day

Leap Year Day
Conceived and Executed by Brian Feldman
City Hall Commons Plaza, Orlando Fla.

Perhaps you have yet to visit City Hall Commons, otherwise known as the home of the Glass Asparagus. It’s right in front of City Hall and populated mostly by panhandles and politician, but on February 29th it was home to one of the most ambitious performance art projects in Orlando history. Brian Feldman, who first made his mark by charging people $15 to watch his family cook Hanukah dinner, will be jumping off a 12 foot ladder every 4 minutes for the entire day, midnight to midnight.

Like a Christo project, the end result is not as important as the process. To Orlando, building marble monuments for the populace outranks some crazy guy jumping onto an air mattress, and he snuck this past the City Council when they were all napping. It’s the sheer magnitude of the folly that matters, and Feldman’s efforts will equal climbing over 3/4 of a mile of ladder steps without using a nickel of the public’s money. His fall is a bit shorter than advertised, as he lands on a combination stunt mattress / kiddie party slide that’s about 6 feet tall. I don’t understand why he’s chosen this way to spend his quadrennial Bonus Day, but that’s what makes it art.

The show begin at midnight on a brisk but clear evening, and a small crowd of press, family and street folks gathered around to schmooze, fill out the mandatory questionnaire / survey, and generally hang out. Every hour Mr. Feldman dons a new jump suit, reflecting a number of questionable fashion statements but adding variety to what could become a tedious day’s work. Between Feldman’s jumps, the press and other acquaintances were allowed to try the jump, which I can report is just a bit scary.

I dropped by again around 8 am (jump 126 or so), actually got a parking spot, and found him in good shape and good spirits. The crowd was still small, but a live cam to a local newspaper’s web site might be drawing off some of his foot traffic, particularly for those who find Orlando’s draconian parking enforcement and wide spectrum of panhandlers intimidating.

At 9 p.m. (jump 306 by the light up sign) the crowd remained small, but there was a curious fascination to the event. Mr. Feldman was obviously tired and less extroverted, but between jumps he chatted with the crowed until a few second prior to the next jump. His staff would shout out “20 seconds!” and he’d sprint up the ladder while they counted him down. After three hundred jumps, his style had settled into to an efficient leap with one arm extended, which helped spread the blow, followed by a slightly graceful exit from the air bag, where he would resume whatever conversation he had been holding.

There’s almost a Kafkaesque feel to the event. While there is no compunction to jump, Mr Feldman returned to the stairs over and over again, and neither he nor his staff ever felt compelled to explain, they only facilitated. Curious onlookers gathered and dispersed, and only one fact remained true by evenings end – gravity is undefeated and undefeatable. But we now have 366 more data points in that grand experiment.

Find out more about Brian Feldman at www.brianfeldman.com

Www.cityartsfactory.com has some interesting information as well.

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