Psychoactive Providence

Provflux III finds treasure in the city’s urban fabric
By BETH SCHWARTZAPFEL  |  May 24, 2006

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: Provflux seeks to highlight the positive actions that inspire people in the city.

With activities encompassing parties, outdoor performance art, parades, roundtable discussions, and film screenings, Provflux examines the interface between humans and their cityscape from many different angles. Sometimes the angle is on a bicycle. Sometimes it’s taking over a deserted Providence bridge. Sometimes the angle is making dirty jokes. Most often, it’s entirely unexpected. “There is a lot we feel needs to be left loose to add to the spontaneity and the flux of the entire event,” says Meredith Younger, one of the organizers of the third annual weekend-long celebration of Providence’s urban landscape. It starts on Thursday, June 1.

Provflux is organized and staged by Olneyville-based PIPS, which, depending on when you ask, stands for People Interested in Participatory Societies, Providence Initiative for Psychogeographic Studies, or Profit is Poop, Stupid. PIPS was founded by an informal group of artists who began staging “small-scale space-takeovers and makeovers” in 2000, according to Younger, such as building garbage sculptures on neglected waterfront space, or spontaneously dressing in costume and distributing food and art on street corners. Provflux was launched in 2004 as a sister event to Conflux, a New York City event with a similar philosophy, although Provflux is now run independently.

I spoke with Younger, 26, at PIPS’ home base, Hooverville, co-operative living space in Monohasset Mill that is bursting at the seams with teetering piles of fabric, rescued junk, and creative types.

Tell me about Provflux.
Provflux is meant to be a kind of gathering ground, a place where all different types of disciplines can come to the table and talk about how we exist in a city space. Some are artists. Some are activists and artists. Some are writers and philosophers. Some are urban planners. Some are cartographers. Some are really into tech mapping and GPS and Internet-based positioning. So there’s really a wide range. We’ve got over 40 different projects.

The idea is that you can create a situation in a city which will alter the behavior of the individuals around you. This can be good or bad. We choose to focus on the positive actions, which inspire the city around us and the people in it. But participatory societies means creating that moment when somebody decides to take that action to get involved in some way. That sort of strong emotion that has come out of that act, [where] they’re actually putting their feet forward, or putting their head forward to get involved, working with other people.

What are some of the projects that stood out last year, and what are some of those that you’re excited about this year?
There’s always the Progressive Runway Project. That is a trash fashion show. Every year it takes place in a slightly different format. All of the clothing is completely recycled garbage. Last year it took place on bicycles. It was a bicycle parade through all of College Hill and downtown and the West Side. We had this dress a couple years ago that was made entirely of safety pins, all the way down to ankle-length. It was amazing. We’ll be doing that again, and this year there will be four different locations and fashion walks scheduled. And then the fashion people will move throughout the city, as a group, in units, between those fashion times, which are staggered two hours apart.

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