Counter Weight – Show Report

Our show closed this past Sunday, and it’s taken me a few days to digest what we’ve accomplished. I wanted to take this space to celebrate our wins and contemplate our losses. There are many ways to measure success, and in terms of building an audience and engaging with the community I think we knocked it out of the park. But in terms of sales, the scale that most directly affects our lives, we went for broke and now that’s exactly what we are.

To put this show into context. I think it helps to explain how we formed into a collective, what this show means to us, and the emotional journey it’s taken me on. Some of these things I covered in my artist talk which I have linked above.

This Show Started as a Drunken Idea

I wouldn’t say that I ever thought about suicide, but I’ve definitely fantasized about it. By October of 2021, sporadic work and financial insecurity led me towards a downward spiral where I was quickly becoming broke and depressed. I continued to daydream about increasingly violent and cartoonish ways of killing myself. Slit my wrists and light myself on fire? Maybe I should jump off a cliff too for good measure. One of those ought to do the trick!! Let’s just say, I know why you’re supposed to keep knives away from depressed people. I also know what happens if you google the best way to kill yourself.

By December 2021, I decided to do something about it and pulled myself together. I’ve said this before, but I believe in art. I believe in art in the way other people believe in religion. I believe it will be my savior, and that it gives my life meaning. Realizing that other artists might feel the same way, I reached out to two artists: Ivan Cofield and Tommy Vo, whom I’ve known since my Boston days, who are also living and working in New York. I told them I wanted us to “share resources, so we can struggle smarter together! We don’t want to ride the wave, we want to be the tide that raises all the boats.” Plus if anything, we can at least get to drink and complain to each other.

Together, we have formed the Futurist Collective. By January 2022, as a means of setting a target to focus our energy, I proposed we put on a show together. Five months later our show Counter Weight opened at Brooklyn Bridge Park on May 14th.

Nerves

We all bet big on this. We all sank a lot of money, time, effort and resources into bringing our art to the community. I pulled out all the investments I could and reinvested them into our show. From our standpoint, we were betting on ourselves and our dreams. If we had sold just one painting off the walls, we would’ve made all our money back.

To give you a better sense of what made this show different for us. I need to first talk a little bit about the economics of art. Usually if an artist shows at a gallery, the gallery takes a 50% cut on all sales. The gallery also provides services that extend beyond just the real estate and space to show. A gallery usually provides things such as a team of people to help you install, and promote your work. As well as acting as an agent for developing a market for an artist’s work. Crucially, a gallery also gives you access to their affluent audience and client base. 

For this show, we worked with a nonprofit called Chashama that provided us with a free space, and took no commissions. On the plus side, any sales we’d make were worth literally twice as much as it would be if sold through more traditional means. On the downside, we’d get none of the advantages of working with a traditional gallery. We’d have to do everything ourselves.

Preparing the vinyl

Knowing that we won’t be able to compete with a traditional gallery via traditional means. We decided to fill our calendar with the kinds of events a traditional gallery probably wouldn’t. Things like: Break Dance battles, a comedy night, dance performances, or a tshirt release party. This was in addition to expected events such as: artist talks, and opening/closing receptions. Our goal was to engage the community, and fill our space with as many eyeballs as possible. Our hope was to use the minnows to attract the sharks. That some collector would see the commotion and come in and hopefully buy a painting. 

Dance performance with choreography inspired by my work

Anxiety

For the three weeks during the run of the show, I didn’t sleep well. I barely ate. I had random panic attacks, where it felt like I was puking my heart out for no reason. Little things that I would normally brush off would get lodged in my psyche for days. There was an underlying tension in my body that refused to go away. It didn’t matter what I said or thought to myself. No amount of self care, exercise/journaling and meditation helped. That feeling that my life hung by a thin red hair refused to go away. I never felt so close to death, even when I wanted to die. At the same time, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alive.

Meanwhile I’d power through, get out there, smile, laugh and be social. I’d allow myself to be vulnerable, because it was all a part of the job. It hurt, because I was stretching myself thin. We were reaching. We were reaching for our dreams with all our might. I’d repeat my mantra “I’m a diamond! Give me all the pressure, it only makes me harder!!”

Opening Reception
Opening Night Crowd

The Future is Exciting/Terrifying

In practical terms, we lost. Our gamble didn’t pay off, at least not in the way it does when you win at the casino. When we took the show down this past Sunday, it was a bittersweet moment for us. As we were peeling the vinyl off the walls Ivan asked “is anyone else crying right now?!” Tommy responded “Only on the inside!” For me, it felt like a cathartic moment. My fears had come true, but after the moment passed I felt more at peace with it. My anxiety started to go away. I’m effectively broke right now, and I have no idea how I will survive next month. But I feel a deep sense of accomplishment, like I’m a changed person after having gone through this experience.

We estimate that there were over 1,000 people who came to see our show. We were able to engage and bring a community together through art. Friends old and new stopped by to see the show, some even coming as far as Boston and San Diego. Our work was largely well received, and I am grateful to everyone who came and left kind words of encouragement.

My friend dropped by from San Diego

This show has also opened doors for us, and created new opportunities. This was our first show together, and we already have ideas where we can improve for the next one. We are currently applying for another exhibition space in Chelsea underneath the Highline for the end of July/August. The folks at Chashama were impressed with how we ran things, and are looking for ways to work with us again.

For me personally, I want to develop more work in the NFT space and integrate my book burning project along with it. I also plan to do more community based work like this in the future. Both with the Futurist Collective and integrating community building elements into my art practice.

Help Us

If you’d like to help, hands down the best (and most difficult) way is to buy some art. This has the most direct impact on our lives, and our ability to create more art and exhibitions like this in the future. But even though I really need the money, I’d vastly prefer people buy my art because they enjoy it. Because at the end of the day, art isn’t about money. It’s about all the things money can’t buy.

But if nothing we have in stock sings to your heart right now. The next best way to support is to make a tax deductible donation by clicking the link below. Every dollar and every cent will go towards helping us build a brighter, more beautiful future. Even $3 can help us cover a bag of ice for opening nights.

Donate now at Fractured Atlas!

Lastly, if you’re like us, and have nothing to spare but good will. A like, a share, or comment always helps us catch the attention of the internet gods (aka the algorithms). Who might then shine some light on us, and give us a moment in the sun.

We are the Futurist Collective. Welcome to the revolution!

Futurist Collective
The Futurist Collective – Tommy Vo, Johnny Tang, Ivan Cofield

Cheers!!

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