Off the cuff

ProvFlux’s spontaneous confluence
By GREG COOK  |  August 5, 2008

ORGANIC Sarah Zurier's Green Zone.

Feeling lucky? It’s a question to ask yourself when you consider attending the fifth annual ProvFlux art festival, which begins in Providence on August 7.

“Part carnival and part conference,” the event’s Website explains, “ProvFlux brings together artists, theorists, urban adventurers and the general public to share their visions of what the city can be, and to take action to make it a reality.”

This year’s, ahem, schedule includes a naked bike ride, urban gardening, lectures, yoga, kickball, and parties. Everything is free and open to anyone who would like to participate. But as of press time earlier this week, the lineup of participants, times, and even locations was still in flux. If that’s your cup of tea, ProvFlux can be liberating. “We’re allowing for any sort of spontaneous event to happen and embracing such things. We like the plan B,” an organizer, Meredith Younger, tells me. But it’s also the kind of elusive freewheeling event that you can spend a lot of time looking for, schedule in hand (see:, and still miss altogether.

But this might be your last chance to miss it. “I think this is going to be our final year. If we do something like this next year it probably won’t be called ProvFlux,” Younger says. “You do something for so long and it starts to lose its shiny. We don’t want to be a drag on anybody’s resources . . . Everybody just wants to have the freedom to move on.”

ProvFlux is (sort of) organized by PIPS, which is alternately defined as the Providence Initiative for Psychogeographic Studies; the Providence Institute of Planning and Spontaneity; People Interested in Participatory Societies; or Profit is Poop, Stupid. It’s a loose and shifting group of about 10 people from Providence, Boston, New York, and as far away as Arizona.

In the art world, psychogeography has come to mean a (more or less serious) study of how people’s environment affects their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It is usually augmented by actions or artworks or jokey stunts that aim to give people a new understanding of their locale. “The simple premise behind ProvFlux,” the Website explains, “is to create an environment of positive activity, and to continue expanding upon the ideas of what one can do in their city.”

This year’s festival begins with an opening reception tonight at some location that was yet to be announced at press time. Friday includes an excursion to Block Island; Saturday offers the ProvFlux Lecture Series at Firehouse 13 from 3 to 6 pm. Speakers may include Sarah Zurier and Morag Rose. Since the spring, Zurier has been growing her Green Zone organic garden in reused tires, shoes, and shopping bags outside Firehouse 13. Her themes are war (the title references the fortified American “safe” zone in Baghdad) and conservation (in particular, World War II Victory Gardens).

Rose, who leads the Loiters Resisters Movement, a group similar to PIPS in Manchester, England, is expected to participate in ProvFlux by staging “Twisted Tea Parties,” which invite passers-by in public spots around Providence and/or Block Island to discuss “current political impacts of psychogeography and art in the public sphere.”

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