Night Owl Ceremony
1. [Executive Summary]
A series of site-specific installations and performances in the form of reality-altering experiences. An active collaboration with every participant, potentially even after the event ends. A ceremony for the spirit of San Francisco, and a call to action to keep it alive. An event in the shape of a surreal experience that doesn’t alter your perception of reality, but alters reality itself — calling into question the relationship between those fundamental building blocks of existence: time and space, internal and external, impetus and change, subjectivity and objectivity.
Six-hundred seekers went wayward in the night, shifting through the intentional layers of a transmogrified Golden Gate Park.
2. [Inspiration; Intentionality]
Given stratification, gentrification, and development, the space available for independent art gatherings has shrunk in San Francisco. Sanctioned artistic space is prohibitively expensive. Unfortunately, the artistic reclamation of space is often elitist, unwelcoming, and self-serving, or at the behest of corporate interests. This has resulted in a sense, throughout the city, that San Francisco is “dead”, that it has lost its spirit.
With the Night Owl Ceremony, Krawczuk approaches the above concerns with a hybrid personal/public social art site-specific installation event, including a parade action and a pair of narrative + performative rituals: a funeral for “Francis” (The spirit of San Francisco) and a Benediction.
Inspiration came to Krawczuk during walks through Golden Gate Park. Initially a means to get around personal doldrums, Krawczuk began to appreciate the scope and size of the park, and the spell it weaves after dark. This serendipitous moment transformed into an intentional, performative action. Krawczuk began walking through the space at night with collaborators, two times a week, for three months: to find the best route, survey potential sites for installations, assess the existing presence of street-involved individuals, and commune with the spirit of the site. This performative ritual established a socialized productive space with collaborators; an intimate understanding of the park as an ecosystem, source of inspiration, and venue; and was an excuse to buy a large, authoritative flashlight.
What’s more, this creative cartographic survey of the space allowed Krawczuk to avoid areas of habitation in the park, given that it is some people’s home.
Throughout this three-month survey, Krawczuk contacted potential collaborators, curated potential installations, developed accompanying material, and established an intentional logistical blueprint for the experiential journey of the Night Owl Ceremony.
3. [Detailed Description of the overall experience]
Upon entering the staging site, participants are initiated into the ceremony with a UV ink map that can only be seen under blacklight LED, and taste-changing miracle berries with strawberries, lemons, and limes for a quick and dramatic visceral gate: Beyond this threshold, things will not be as you expect.
All are welcome. An active inversion of elitism, the description, structure, installations, and organizers are aimed at a wide-spectrum inclusion. Even well-behaved dogs and kids are initiated into the ceremony. What’s more, the event grows with each stage, inviting participants to welcome those they encounter in the night.
Following that initiation, participants interact with a series of installation-events within a codified area of the park, as indicated on their UV ink map. This includes a donut tree, a pack of monsters that can only be repulsed by slide-whistle, bugs with giant inflatable fruit who convince participants that they have shrunk to an infinitesimal size, and a insecurity-defying knock-down truck, all scored by a raucous marching band.
An hour later, participants join the first of two rituals — a funeral parade (a collaboration with Laura Turiano) for “Francis,” the puckish spirit of the city (who is acting very much alive). Francis is very happy to be going to a party in his honor, even if it is their own funeral. This takes the crowd deeper into the night, the park, and the spell that the Night Owl Ceremony casts upon the city.
Then the ceremony is interrupted by the Night Owl itself — portrayed by collaborator Richie Rhombus (who first invented the concept of Night Owl as a reality-altering drug) — appearing as a chimeric half owl / half park ranger. When the Night Owl asks what’s going on, Francis answers: “I’m dead! Everyone keeps saying I am.”
The Night Owl scoffs. “This happens every 20 years,” they say. And the participants are asked, en masse, if they can keep Francis alive. They agree.
Following Francis’s “resurrection,” the participants are invited into a second zone of installations and alternate realities: a samba band marching into a sonic conflagration with Mission Delirium, a station for participants to write their emotional state on cookies and “eat their feelings,” participatory non-destructive graffiti in the form of paper-bound LED lights, Spotting Scope Hill (old school binoculars gazing upon a lit model ship diorama), a living cloud (a woman on stilts covered in balloons), a forum for impromptu storytelling, a fortune teller conveying information gleaned from participants’ registration forms, and a horse puppet with a stick for participants to “beat a dead horse” — then all these scattered seekers are brought together for hot tea and a Benediction.
The Benediction asks them to bring this experience forward, to become the reality-altering force they wish to witness in the city and the world, to create the relationship they want to have with their space, and to continue exploring the night.
4. [Connection to Artistic Practice]
The Night Owl Ceremony builds upon Krawczuk’s previous work, such as the curatorial and thematic unity of the You’ve Got My Eyes cyberpunk bazaar; the autonomous event installation style of Lost Horizon Night Market; and the inclusive mobile interchange between participants, collaborators, and ad hoc members of the public found in Cardboard Animal Parade and Waiting for the Man.
By combining these elements with site-specific installation buttressed by the intentional action of a collaborative & performative survey of the site, The Night Owl Ceremony acts as a bridge between the nodes of creative autonomous space Krawczuk has fostered in the past, and a model for distributive event actions that respond to a time, place, and set of social conditions.
The event was unsanctioned, unofficial, and free for all to join, but also, importantly, free from municipal jurisdiction. And therefore free to put on. By not relying on permits, yet still acting within the grounds of a legal gathering in the public park space, the Ceremony is an example of the kind of art gathering that can occur without official purview, as long as one is willing to plan, perform, and participate. By the same token, utilizing the public park in this manner underlines the mixed use of the public space, and reinforces the demand to do so in a communally aware fashion. In this context, the installation-event is but one more participant in a public space, and must share, adapt, and include based on circumstances, rather than isolate itself from everyday use through artificial and abstract boundaries.
As a social art practice, Krawczuk’s comprehensive and intentional logistic develops a relationship with the space and context of a site, then imbues the event with that bridge of meaning — refracted by the overlapping subjectivities of each collaborator, each participant, and each moment of relational exchange between these groups.
For a single night, in this one pocket of San Francisco, the bolts tethering objective reality loosened under the conjoined efforts of Krawczuk’s relational design practice, collaborative nodes of autonomous creation supported by an aesthetic thesis, and the active engagement of each participant in sustaining the communal creative suspension of disbelief.
Together, then and there, in the here and now, objectivity gave way to mutually reinforced subjectivities, and a spell was woven over the night.
For more information and media about this project, please visit: http://www.krawczukindustries.com/night-owl-ceremony/