School of Art hosts annual Anti-Gravity Derby
This year, the Anti-Gravity Derby kicked off Spring Carnival festivities with its anarchic alternative to the Buggy races. While all College of Fine Arts (CFA) students are encouraged to participate in the event, this year’s record number of participants was likely due to the involvement of CFA professor Charles Rosenblum’s Critical Histories of the Arts students, who were required to participate as part of their course grade.
While a large crowd slowly gathered outside of the main entrance of Doherty Hall at around 4 p.m. on Thursday, the racers began to line up their vehicles in a queue that ran from Doherty Hall all the way down to Frew Street and around the corner of Baker Hall.
As racers lined up their vehicles, the audience was thoroughly entertained by the humorous commentary of CFA professor and multimedia artist Pat Oleszko, who emceed and organized the derby. In promoting the event to students, Oleszko pitched the idea of participation primarily to those “with big ideas, but no rush to get there.”
The first Anti-Gravity Derby was held in the spring of 2010 as a project of Oleszko’s class on sculpture and performance art. The first event was extremely successful, so the group decided to turn it into an annual event, adapting it to fit into the university’s Spring Carnival schedule.
As a celebration of whimsy and wit, this year’s Anti-Gravity Derby focused primarily on outlandish costumes and extraordinary vehicles that were pushed, dragged, pedaled, or left to free-wheel down the hill between Doherty Hall and the University Center. Perfect for those who revel in absurdity, speed was not the main goal of the race. Rather, ostentation and imagination took precedence.
While the Annual Anti-Gravity Derby has served as a foil to the high-stress environment that Buggy inevitably creates, it makes more sense to think of the derby as a chaotic fashion show full of visual puns, fanciful costumes, and flamboyant presentations rather than as a race.
The vehicles’ themes ranged from political satire to tongue-in-cheek allusions to the traditional canon of classical art — including references to Edgar Degas’ ballerinas, Pablo Picasso’s paintings of Dora Maar, the Bauhaus movement, and ancient Roman columns. While it was clear that many of the vehicles had been scrapped together no more than a couple of days prior, there was a real level of heart and showmanship evident in every performance.
The excitement of the racers was matched in full by that of the crowd. The lively crowd rejoiced and grimaced at the many ups and downs of the derby. From the accidental spillage of copious amounts of spaghetti onto the race course to the dramatically planned high-speed collision between an iceberg on wheels and a model Titanic, the races saw their share of crashes and mayhem.
While smiles and laughter were abundant in the crowd, it was clear the participants and organizers were having just as much fun. Given the derby’s recent growth in popularity, it is likely that it will become an official Spring Carnival tradition for those looking to have some unstructured, free-wheeling fun.