In July, Now + There’s Public Art Accelerator Artist Eli Brown premieres Beam Me Down, a public art installation of an unidentified flying object (UFO), at LoPresti Park jetty, a former tidal flat in East Boston. The sculpture’s design blends the qualities of a UFO and a shell, and is steered by a selection of hermaphroditic tidal animals such as oysters and barnacles. An accompanying comic book is co-illustrated by the artist and young East Boston residents. The work will open July 13 and on view through Dec. 2022.
Beam Me Down is meant to play on the power and wonder of the unknown and asks viewers to consider relationships with some of the smallest animals that sustain life at the water’s edge and what they can teach about navigating rising seas. It is one of several installations that will be going up this summer as part of Now + There’s Accelerator program, bringing site-specific, temporary public art works to all neighborhoods of Boston.
“I wanted to focus on the feeling of encountering the unknown, because it’s something we’re all facing right now as resources become more unstable and we come up against the dilemma of who is going to save us from ourselves, but it’s also been a huge part of my life as a trans person,” Brown said. “And so the UFO as this universal symbol of ‘the other’ can serve to raise questions we are thinking through as a species, while also being a playful object for all ages.”
By featuring hermaphroditic creatures at the helm, Brown hints at the lessons we can learn from human and non-human queer life about adaptation and survival.
By reframing the climate change narrative, Brown hopes viewers move from a linear perspective, where society reaches an end, toward a cyclical perspective and look to the strength of ancient tidal species for survival strategies.
“This project is meant to encourage us toward small acts in response to big anxiety, like the Kid in the comic who forms a relationship with a neighborhood snail,” Brown said.
From the installation in LoPresti Park, Brown draws on the work’s tidal animals to become the main characters in a sci-fi comic book which he co-illustrated with East Boston students, ages 3 to 18, from Adams Elementary School. The comic book will be available by QR code and will be printed in English and Spanish. Local bodegas and shops will carry it for free, and people can contribute drawings to the virtual space at the East Boston Public Library.
Brown has been one of four artists in Now + There’s Public Art Accelerator program which grants Boston-based artists a $25,000 stipend along with a 10-month curriculum to help them with curatorial, technical, and financial support as they develop new temporary and site-specific works of art for the neighborhoods of Boston. Applications are now being taken for the next Now + There cohort.
Brown is an interdisciplinary artist working in sculpture, comics, and community organizing whose work explores queer and trans intimacies through time and cross-generational dynamics. They are especially interested in asking what the future of human evolution could look like if we reimagined reproduction as a queer, ecological strategy. Recent work has been featured at Flux Factory, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Tailgate Projects in Tampa, FL. and Creative Time Summit X.
ABOUT NOW + THERE
Now + There (N+T) is a non-profit public art curator changing the landscape with temporary and site-specific public artworks. Through its curatorial efforts, N+T is transforming Boston into a public art city by creating a portfolio of projects that supports artistic risk-taking, community dialogue, and cultural change. Fostering artists of many diverse backgrounds and inspiring the public to create bold art experiences that open minds, conversations, and spaces across Boston is the organization’s goal, resulting in a more open, equitable, and vibrant city. (www.nowandthere.org).