Invasion of the RFID’s!
Hi. I’m Walking Bob, and what jumped out at me as I explored the Transmedia Art Walk that has been developed by the John Natsoulas Gallery was that we had been invaded by extraterrestrials. It took me back to my teenage days when B-movies like “Day of the Triffids” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” played in double features at our local theaters. The first of the Davis invaders, appearing a bit before Halloween, was Finley Fryer’s, “Stan, the Submerged Man” in front of the gallery. Being eighteen-feet tall and weighing about a ton, this refugee from the 1999 Burning Man celebration was hard to miss.
Then in February another giant appeared in front of Ace Hardware in the form of “Albino”, a Bigfoot created by UC Davis graduate Finley Fryer. Fryer also dropped “The Cloaked Skateboarder” a block south in front of Ace’s Housewares building. However, it wasn’t just the size of these sculptures that made them special. Each sculpture has an embedded Radio Frequency Identification or RFID chip that allows people with smart cell phones to pick up videos about the art and artists. Smart phone users can also leave messages or images as they interact with the art.
Even if you don’t do as much wandering around Davis as I do, you’ve probably seen some of the other sculptures like Fryer’s silver “Stealth Angel” in front of Mikuni’s or “Collaboration” shown here in front of Jack-in-the-Box. “Collaboration” was actually a collaborative project created by ceramics students from across California as a protest against cuts in funding for the arts. These pieces of art are in public, but they are on private property and are not part of the city’s public art project.
Some items will require a little more searching to discover. Davis resident Wes Horn’s “Polly”, shown here, is one of the more unusual places for someone to take a seat in the alley behind the Pence gallery. Patrick Siler’s “Jack of Diamonds and Queen of Hearts” is in front of The Aggie Inn at 1st and B Street heading onto the UC Davis campus. Susannah Israel’s “Circus” just migrated from the gallery to a new spot south of 2nd Street on G Street.
Other sculptures that have been in place for some time have been retrofitted with RFID so that you can learn more about Mark Rivera’s “Taking the Scenic Route” when you’re walking between the G Street Parking Garage and movies at Regal’s Stadium Five Theater. Jeff Downing’s “The Keeper” has been standing watch at the entry to the Pence Gallery for quite some time, and in case you wondered, that is a stylized dog, not a giraffe.
A couple of murals have been added to the collection. Kerry Rowland Avrech, who has a show at the John Natsoulas Gallery in June, contributed “Windows” to the historic Anderson Bank building at 2nd Street and G Street. Her murals depicting many familiar Davis images wrap around the building, and even leave a space for a water faucet.
Another more recent mural, Bill Maul’s “It Can Happen Now . . . TO YOU!” is shown in the headline of this article. It depicts a scene from “It Came from Outer Space,” a 1962 movie loosely based on a story by my favorite author, Ray Bradbury.
You can learn more about the Transmedia Art Walk at the John Natsoulas Gallery website, but an even better way to get involved is to show up at the gallery a bit after 11 a.m. on any given Saturday to join the guided tour that begins promptly at 11:15. Bring your smart phone, if you have one, or just look over the shoulder of those who do as you enjoy the tour. A map of the tour shows there were twelve sculptures on the first tour, but they’re now up to eighteen, including Clayton Thiel’s “The Dreamer, Dreaming in Eight Parts”at the corner of 1st and E Streets.