Weekly Update – Oliver Herring at FLUXspace This Saturday

This week’s Weekly has my preview of the Oliver Herring video/performance/event at FLUXspace. Below is the copy with some pictures. More pictures at flickr and see Libby’s post for more.

Seeing and Herring
Two videos show Philly’s mean streets at play.

Peter Pan in North Philly — just one of the iconic images called to mind in Oliver Herring’s Howard Street (airborn) video which screens Saturday at FLUXspace. Scratch the surface and there’s religious iconography all over this project.


Never before has an art video propelled me out of my seat clapping and cheering as did Oliver Herring’s exuberant tour-de-force Howard St. (Airborn), opening Saturday at FLUXSpace. The short video captures street acrobatics performed by members of the FLUX team and their young North Philadelphia neighbors in a venture intended to bring two disparate communities (art and non-art) together.

There are Cirque du Soleil thrills as young men and boys hurl their bodies through the air to be caught in the outstretched arms of others. These unrehearsed, spontaneous leaps of faith by a rag-tag troupe of people who barely know each other’s names are a beautiful and exciting street ballet.

One of the activities performed in Howard Street (Airborn) is leaping into the outstretched arms of strangers. If it was an Olympic event I’d give this crew gold medals!


The project was initiated by FLUXSpace’s Chris Golas and Joe DiGiuseppe who, after a chance meeting with Herring in 2006, invited the artist to Philadelphia.

Herring is a self-proclaimed utopian who believes in art as a force for change. He says he’s pleased with the two videos he made in Philadelphia, and really happy that the community members who participated will be at the opening, bringing food like it’s a neighborhood potluck dinner—all of which signals that Howard Street has accepted FLUXSpace into its family.

Still from Waterloo Street showing Joe, Chris from FLUX and two neighborhood friends playing with water. I love the heroic postures as they struggle against the element.


“I shot things and wasn’t sure I had anything,” says Herring. He also wasn’t used to working with children and teens, whom he says are difficult to direct.

Herring was touched by the hard-boiled nature of the neighborhood. He says that while they were filming the second video, Waterloo St., a constant stream of drug users disappeared into the bushes to shoot up.

Halo of water around this child in one short moment in the short, elegaic video Waterloo Street is great.
Halo of water around this child in one short moment in the short, elegaic video Waterloo Street is great.

But Herring believes the project had a positive effect on the kids and neighbors involved. “These videos are about building trust,” says Herring. “This was a very fertile environment for that. We created a platform and they didn’t think of it as art. It was a creative outlet.”

The scenes flow as if they were orchestrated. To an extent, they were—by Herring saying “Let’s do it again” when nobody knew what to do next. Herring doesn’t edit his videos himself but works with an editing lab, which had to cut extensively to get the fluidity Herring wanted in the finished product.

Imagination over everything. Swimming on Waterloo Street.

The elegiac and dreamy Waterloo St., which involves water play with an open fire hydrant, is the perfect companion piece to Howard St. It slows you down, allowing you to consider the beauty of these kids and their imaginations and sense of play in a neighborhood that offers them a lot of crime and grime.

Oliver Herring
Artist Oliver Herring, last week at FLUXspace in Kensington.

The German-born Herring, a true romantic, has been in the U.S. for 17 years. He came here for love, he says, and is still with the same partner. He doesn’t plan to show these videos anywhere else.

“I thought of putting them on YouTube,” he says, “but this is a unique, intimate, special moment and I don’t want to deflate it.”

Oliver Herring
Opening party Sat., Dec. 15, 6-10pm. Free. Through Dec. 22. FLUXSpace, 3000 N. Hope St. 610.764.7488.