Ideas, waffles make tasty contest

Imagination, utopian societies, and waffles made last Saturday night an excellent creative combination. Visionary Ideas for this World or Another, an event sponsored by the Waffle Shop, a Carnegie Mellon art project, was a satellite event for the Miller Gallery’s current exhibit 29 Chains to the Moon.

In the gallery exhibit, artists display innovative design ideas that envision a better future for humanity. The Visionary Ideas event used this same concept, but the contestants displayed their ideas for the future through presentations, and the person who presented the best idea was awarded a year’s supply of waffles and a $250 cash prize, as well as the opportunity to have his or her vision “broadcast to the cosmos.”

At 9 p.m. at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, eight contestants with very different outlooks on life gathered to present their perspectives on how to better the future of humanity. Each had five minutes to explain their vision and then two minutes to answer questions from the three judges. An impressive-looking organ provided atmospheric music, playing a series of intimidating chords when a contestant’s time was up.

Ken Binsley and Less Jangley also addressed the issue of communication in their presentation, which embodied many a music-lover’s most cherished dream: to replace normal speech with song. This, they claimed, would reduce the spending of individuals and government on health care and would advance the cause of interspecies and extraterrestrial communication. Plus, making every day “42nd Street Day” would undoubtedly brighten the lives of many.

Oscar Peters described his theory of Accelerated De-evolution, in which people, though keeping their minds intact, would devolve more and more with each generation, so that a family portrait five generations from now would include some Homo sapiens, but also some chimps, a Neanderthal, amphibians, and other members of our inauspicious beginnings.

Vanessa German drew upon the power of the human mind in her vision of the future, which was titled “The Power of Imagination.” Pointing out that it is scientifically proven that human minds are at their most energetic when creating something, she proposed a society in which imagination is literally used to power life — listening to Mozart would power a toaster and dancing in the kitchen would turn on the lights.

Contestants had varying beliefs as to why their own innovations were the best. Contestant Gregg Pangle, who sported a Salvador Dali-esque mustache that disappeared by the end of his performance, explained why he wanted to fill the world with clones of himself in simple terms: “Because I’m a genius.”

The youngest innovators were Alex Korzeniwsky and Avalon Perdriel-Arons, fifth graders at the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh who presented their idea for a “Gel House.” Together, they described a house that would build itself, growing in size until it was told to stop. It would supply its own heat and lights and decorate itself according to its inhabitants’ moods.

After the presentations were completed, audience members voted for the winner. The runners-up were Pangle, Korzeniwsky and Perdriel-Arons, and the winner was German, who mamboed her way to the stage to be wreathed in two flowering laurels and carried out of the church in a chair, heralded by organ music and cheers from the audience.

When asked how she felt about her victory, German poetically referred to both her personal experience and to her ride out of the church on a chair. “You will rise, not on your own, but on the shoulders of others,” she said. After the event, judges, contestants, and audience members met at the Waffle Shop to partake in some delicious midnight waffles.

The judging table was composed of Janera Solomon, the executive director of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater; Bill Peduto, a Pittsburgh City Councilman; and Renee Piechocki, an artist and the director of the Office for Public Arts of Pittsburgh.

“Well, I knew it would be diverse and creative and compelling, and that’s what happened tonight. [The Waffle Shop is] a wonderful example of the artist being a civic engagement instigator,” Piechocki responded after some thought.

The event was filled with creative and mind-blowing ideas, which kept the audience laughing and caused them to truly think. All in all, it showed newcomers and reminded old customers what the Waffle Shop project is all about.