Bracken says, “to think of an idea for an event, we take a favorite childhood activity such as a pillow fight or a game of capture the flag, remove it from its traditional setting, host the event on a concrete surface, and invite everybody.” Though the formula may seem simple, the statement it makes is anything but. Bracken, who has studied urban politics and sociology, goes on to say, “Our goal is to overthrow the dominant entertainment paradigm, which is defined by passive, solo consumption experiences like watching television. We want to replace it with a more participatory, social culture where people actively create communities and take advantage of the richness of urban life. We also seek to reclaim public space from privatization by corporate sponsorship.”
Kufner and Bracken have been happily busy with this overthrowing and reclaiming since 2005 when they held their first event. Stuffing 2,000 plastic eggs with a message, usually handwritten, the duo spent two straight days preparing for their Easter egg hunt to be held in the streets of Toronto. When coming up with their wacky ideas, they help keep each other in check. Kufner says, “When one person’s ideas are too wacky or expensive, the other one lets them know. When most people say, ‘That’s never going to work’ we usually prove them wrong, which is why when Lori says something’s never going to work, it’s worth listening to.” Since, Newmindspace has gained many volunteers and is now able to host events, like the more recent lightsaber battle and Central Park big wheel race, thanks to donations alone.
As you might expect from two people who find themselves as equally influenced by Christo and Jeanne-Claude as by Dr. Seuss, Kufner and Bracken don’t have much interest in traditional approaches to art education. In a short documentary available for viewing on Newmindspace.com, Kufner says, “I think we both sometimes wish we were in art school, but our work might not be quite as interesting if we were painters or something–we’d go paint Dundas Square instead of have a giant pillow fight in it.”
Shaky on art school, they do, however, have a strong feelings when it comes to websites. Kufner says, “The ability to create a website is an indispensable skill. Learn HTML as soon as possible.” He goes on, “The ability to promote an idea instantly with a .com domain is one of the keys to our success in Newmindspace and our other projects.” Maybe public pillow fighting isn’t everybody’s thing, but that’s advice we can all take to the streets.