My interview with the founder of Odyssey Works. See below for an introduction and click through above for the full thing on Urban Omnibus
At 7pm one Saturday this September, I found myself in Downtown Brooklyn’s Metrotech Commons wearing a bright green frog hat and laughing heartily with a group of one hundred fellow “fools.” I was participating in a scene in “When I Left the House It Was Still Dark,” a performance by the collective Odyssey Works. While the spectacle was public, the scene and the other experiences that made up the performance were created for only one person. Once or twice a year, the directorial team behind Odyssey Works (for the most recent performance: Abraham Burickson, Ayden Grout, Jen Harmon, and Ariel Abrahams) selects a single “participant,” chosen through an extensive application process — which starts by asking questions that range from “What is your favorite color?” to “What is your biggest unlived dream in life?” to “Would you be willing to be blindfolded?” — to receive a weekend-long series of experiences engineered specifically for his or her individual tastes, history, and relationships to people and place. Employing family members and friends of the participant, a diverse group of artists, and the general public, Odyssey Works blurs the line between the “real” and the “performed” with its experimental and experiential work.
The public realm of the city is ever more frequently inhabited by professional performance, as theater, dance, and other art creation increasingly utilize plazas and streets as stages in place of traditional venues. (For more on this, read the recent Architectural League report Success Looks Different Now: Design and Cultural Vitality in Lower Manhattan.) For Odyssey Works, the city is not just a stage, but is an environment rich with significance, individual to each of us. Each performance mines these personalized landscapes to create a profound, transformative experience.
Abraham Burickson, an architect and writer, co-founded Odyssey Works in 2002. I sat down with Abe to discuss how experience embeds meaning in physical spaces, how the dynamism and randomness of urban life feeds his work, and why we need to design for the misuse of architecture and the ephemerality of cities.