Occupy DC: Agnes Bolt's Bubble Brings Transparency To Protest
WASHINGTON -- On a chilly Wednesday afternoon, Jordan Brinkman is lying on top of a sleeping bag and foam mat inside an oddly-shaped, igloo-like clear plexiglass structure in McPherson Square, the park where Occupy DC has been encamped since Oct. 1. A sign hung up in front of the structure -- called the "bubble" -- says "Occupy DC is transparent and participatory."
Brinkman, a computer programmer from the Bay Area, came to Washington, D.C. on Oct. 6 to be a part of the capital's other Occupy protest, the one in Freedom Plaza, but says he left there after a falling out. Brinkman spent some time in McPherson Square and elsewhere, but hadn't felt settled. Then on Wednesday afternoon, he found the empty plexiglass bubble at the southwestern part of McPherson Square and moved right in.
"I finally have a place to occupy," Brinkman says. "I'm just so happy."
The plexiglass bubble used to be inhabited by the artist Agnes Bolt. Bolt lived in the bubble inside of D.C. collector and art doyenne Philippa Hughes's living room, as part of an art project that challenged notions of personal identity, artist and collector, control and the use of space. The bubble then made its way into the gallery Project 4 as part of an exhibit. On Tuesday night, Bolt brought the bubble to McPherson Square.
"I thought it should stay in D.C. where it has an association and potentially continue onto other adventures outside of my control," Bolt told the Huffington Post. "I see a lot of parallels there and a humorous dialogue with its previous purpose of questioning the relevance of art in a private situation. Now I hope it will be used in a very practical way: I am hoping as a vegetable greenhouse or sauna. I would definitely love to come back to a steamy nudist spa overlooking McPherson rush hour traffic."
Brinkman, wearing jeans, sneakers and a hoodie -- his coat is hung up on a bolt in the bubble -- says he's not an artist himself but he likes the story of the bubble's previous resident. "She occupied this thing," he says. "It's just so cool."
When Bolt lived in the bubble, she amassed an eclectic collection of objects inside of it: a chair, a surfboard, a plant, a fog machine, a papier mache head and a water bottle. Brinkman has kept his possessions minimal, he says, because he doesn't want to attract the park's rats, so his collection is perhaps more utilitarian: sign-making supplies (a Sharpie, some Pilot pens, pencils, paper), some other personal effects wrapped up in the sleeping bag, some oats for eating, and two bottles, one filled with water and one empty. Brinkman says he "won't speculate" what the empty one is for.
An older woman wanders over to the bubble. She runs her hand over its top.
"What is the meaning of it?" she asks Brinkman in a French accent.
"I'm just occupying it," he says to her.
A bearded man pokes his head into one of the bubble's holes. "What's up with your bubble, dude?" he asks.
"Not much, I'm just occupying it," Brinkman says.
Brinkman wasn't aware of the plexiglass bubble's provenance before he settled down in it -- it just attracted him, seeming "tailor made," he says, for a demonstrator to take up residency inside. He doesn't mind having unwittingly become an art object himself, on display along with his Sharpie and his coat and his empty bottle, a demonstrator interacting with his environment, inside the bubble's transparent walls.
"I'm not going anywhere," he says. "I've got nothing to hide."
RELATED VIDEO: Philippa Hughes' video about what happened when someone threw away the model for the "bubble" structure that Agnes had given her.