Everyday Tourist 2017 Retrospective: Fun Flaneur Finds

For most people the new year, is a time to reflect on what has happen over the past year and what they would like to happen over the next.  For me it is a time to edit the 20,000+ photos I have taken this year and decide which ones to keep. 

Flaneuring Footsteps, Calgary

Flaneuring Footsteps, Calgary

It is also time to ponder what were my best experiences, adventures and discoveries? What was the best art gallery, art exhibition, artwork or architecture I experienced? Should I create albums of the best pieces of public art, best street art, buildings or street photos?

After much reflection, I decided the life of an everyday flaneur isn’t about the “best of” it is about surprises, chance encounters and the thrill of the unexpected. 

As a result this photo essay while in chronological oder is a hodgepodge of fun flaneur finds discovered over the past year wandering with my eyes and mind wide open. I hope you enjoy....

Yoga bound, Calgary

Yoga bound, Calgary

Strawberry Dancers / Watermelon Mountains, Calgary

Strawberry Dancers / Watermelon Mountains, Calgary

Keys, Calgary

Keys, Calgary

Night Rider, Calgary

Night Rider, Calgary

Tree of Life, Berlin

Tree of Life, Berlin

Shopping Vortex, Berlin

Shopping Vortex, Berlin

Circus architecture, Berlin

Circus architecture, Berlin

Giant Red Tops, Berlin

Giant Red Tops, Berlin

Bitte Please, Berlin

Bitte Please, Berlin

Pedestrian, Berlin

Pedestrian, Berlin

Mannie, Berlin

Mannie, Berlin

Street Furniture, Berlin

Street Furniture, Berlin

Recycling Igloos, Berlin

Recycling Igloos, Berlin

Notes, Berlin (Discovered these poems taped to a pedestrian bridge in Kreuzberg, Berlin late one afternoon.)

Notes, Berlin (Discovered these poems taped to a pedestrian bridge in Kreuzberg, Berlin late one afternoon.)

Magritte Lives, Berlin

Magritte Lives, Berlin

No Entrance/No Exit, Berlin

No Entrance/No Exit, Berlin

11 disciples, Berlin

11 disciples, Berlin

Molecules, Berlin

Molecules, Berlin

Treasure Hunters' Paradise, Berlin

Treasure Hunters' Paradise, Berlin

KaDeWe Smile, Berlin

KaDeWe Smile, Berlin

Green Eye, Berlin

Green Eye, Berlin

Confession, Berlin

Confession, Berlin

Word Search, Berlin

Word Search, Berlin

Fun School, Berlin

Fun School, Berlin

Mystery Box, Berlin

Mystery Box, Berlin

Stripes & Checks, Berlin

Stripes & Checks, Berlin

Eye Candy, Berlin

Eye Candy, Berlin

Hommage to Don Cherry, Berlin

Hommage to Don Cherry, Berlin

Hungry, Berlin

Hungry, Berlin

Living Room, Berlin

Living Room, Berlin

Escher & Alexa, Berlin

Escher & Alexa, Berlin

 Happy Bunnies, Leipzig

 Happy Bunnies, Leipzig

Red River, Leipzig

Red River, Leipzig

Snail's Pace, Leipzig (Backstory: The snail on the handle of the historic Leipzig City Hall was placed there by a local craftsman to represents how slowly things move at City Hall)

Snail's Pace, Leipzig (Backstory: The snail on the handle of the historic Leipzig City Hall was placed there by a local craftsman to represents how slowly things move at City Hall)

Three Sisters, Leipzig

Three Sisters, Leipzig

Not armed and not dangerous, Leipzig

Not armed and not dangerous, Leipzig

Dare To Be Different, Leipzig

Dare To Be Different, Leipzig

Street Talk, Leipzig

Street Talk, Leipzig

Couple, Leipzig

Couple, Leipzig

Inside! Leipzig

Inside! Leipzig

Special, Leipzig

Special, Leipzig

Peaceful Revolution, Leipzig

Peaceful Revolution, Leipzig

Follow Through, Leipzig

Follow Through, Leipzig

Partners, Leipzig

Partners, Leipzig

Door Handle as Art, Leipzig

Door Handle as Art, Leipzig

No parking, Leipzig

No parking, Leipzig

Strings Attached, Leipzig

Strings Attached, Leipzig

Brutal Beauty, London, ON

Brutal Beauty, London, ON

Dressing Up!, London, ON

Dressing Up!, London, ON

Playful, Hamilton

Playful, Hamilton

Perspective, Calgary

Perspective, Calgary

Windows, Calgary

Windows, Calgary

Street Party, Calgary

Street Party, Calgary

Dance with me! Calgary

Dance with me! Calgary

My old backyard, Gleichen

My old backyard, Gleichen

Remnants, Sisika

Remnants, Sisika

Waiting, Calgary

Waiting, Calgary

Edge, Head Smash-in Buffalo Jump

Edge, Head Smash-in Buffalo Jump

Hooped, Canmore

Hooped, Canmore

Really, Olds

Really, Olds

Blast From The Past, Olds

Blast From The Past, Olds

Statement, Calgary 

Statement, Calgary 

Upsized, Calgary

Upsized, Calgary

Too Much Information, Calgary

Too Much Information, Calgary

Musical Stairs, Calgary

Musical Stairs, Calgary

Legs & Pillars, Calgary

Legs & Pillars, Calgary

Dataport, Medicine Hat

Dataport, Medicine Hat

Love, Calgary

Love, Calgary

Rainbow, Calgary

Rainbow, Calgary

Buried, Canmore

Buried, Canmore

Happy Hour, Calgary

Happy Hour, Calgary

Elizabeth, Calgary

Elizabeth, Calgary

Failure, Calgary

Failure, Calgary

Stanley Guitar, Nashville

Stanley Guitar, Nashville

Oxymoron, Nashville

Oxymoron, Nashville

Euphony, Nashville

Euphony, Nashville

Pick-up Sticks, Nashville

Pick-up Sticks, Nashville

Bus Rider, Nashville

Bus Rider, Nashville

Wisedom, Mesa

Wisedom, Mesa

Trophies, Calgary

Trophies, Calgary

Alone, Calgary

Alone, Calgary

Outer Space, Palm Springs

Outer Space, Palm Springs

Creative Space, Palm Springs

Creative Space, Palm Springs

Yard Art, Palm Springs

Yard Art, Palm Springs

Hippy Mask, Palm Springs

Hippy Mask, Palm Springs

Whimsical, Palm Springs

Whimsical, Palm Springs

Corner, Palm Springs

Corner, Palm Springs

Blue Bird, Calgary

Blue Bird, Calgary

Juxtaposition, Calgary

Juxtaposition, Calgary

Twisted, Calgary

Twisted, Calgary

Fire, Calgary

Fire, Calgary

Pathways, Calgary

Pathways, Calgary

Thanks for scrolling to the end. 

All the best in 2018. 

Palm Springs: Robolights Mash-Up!

While flaneuring Palm Springs’ Movie Colony neighbourhood just east of their Design District we suddenly came upon three huge robot-looking creatures amongst the trees - one pink, one yellow and one orange. The pink robot was probably 30-feet high. Quickly the light bulb went on; this is the house with the bizarre Christmas light show I had read about. 

Peering over the bushes and the fence we could see hundreds of strange-looking creatures created out of recycled junk that looked like a surreal  mash-up of characters from Star Wars to Jurassic Park. Did a 21st century Dali or Duchamp live here?

We had to come back at night!

It is not everyday that you find front lawn ornaments like this in residential neighbourhoods.

It is not everyday that you find front lawn ornaments like this in residential neighbourhoods.

Kenny's idea of a reindeer?

Kenny's idea of a reindeer?

Robolights 101 / Kenny's World

Basically, Robolights is a giant art installation with millions of lights and hundreds of giant creatures from various folklores and movies, as well as Christmas and cartoon characters that fill a two-acre residential lot in Palm Springs’ Movie Colony neighbourhood. The work of artist Kenny Irwin Jr., it is billed as the largest, most spectacular residential light display in America, perhaps the entire world.”

What began in 1986 as a 9-year old boy’s dream has become Kenny’s altered reality (he still lives in the family house year-round surrounded by his installation).  He has built on almost every available square centimeter of the homestead – his childhood sandbox, the tennis court, the pool and the even the roof of the house. 

His first piece was a 10-foot tall wooden creature with a 1940s phone coming out of its chest.  Since then, he has continued to work on the display year-round using donated junk from friends and strangers (e.g. when a local casino was upgrading the slot machines, they donated all the electronic equipment and some old machines), as well as purchasing things on EBay.

Ironically while it is called Robolights, there are no real robots in the show and Irwin doesn’t even celebrate Christmas, having converted to Islamic many years ago.

Visitors are welcome year-round by donation, but it really comes alive from Thanksgiving to the first week of January when extra lights are added to make it more Christmassy. During this time it is open from 4 to 9:30 pm, donations are option and you can also donate a toy for children in need. 

Link:  Robolights

Robolights has captured national and international attention over the years, attracting 20,000 people last year. But, Robolights almost didn’t happen this year as the City of Palm Springs was concerned the two enormous inflatables on the roof of the house could blow off and damage houses, cars or people on the streets.

 

Somewhere in this display is the house.

Somewhere in this display is the house.

Enter at your own risk?

Enter at your own risk?

This is not your regular Christmas light show!

This is not your regular Christmas light show!

A real mash-up of materials and figures.

A real mash-up of materials and figures.

What we saw!

From the outside, it looks like a Christmas lightshow “gone wild” with a Santa and his reindeer along the street at the entrance made out of an assortment of recycled materials from old car parts to shopping carts. There are countless lights and the roof of the house is graced with two huge inflatables.  There are lots of people milling about but it was not crowded this Tuesday night (nor was it on the Sunday night when I popped by again).

However, upon entering the narrow passageway you quickly realized this is not an innocent Christmas show for children, but a weird, wacky and sometimes macabre art installation on a scale I have never seen before.  This art exhibition is full of fun, strange and bizarre surprises – a mash-up of Disneyland and the Stampede midway.

Many people were overheard saying, “WOW this is amazing/weird.” Another frequent comment was “Where does he get all this stuff?” Irwin estimates he had incorporated over 1,000 tons of recycled materials into the various displays.

Don’t get me wrong there are lots of things for kids of all ages to see and enjoy. There are all the things you would expect in a Christmas light show - Santa Clause, reindeer, snowman, castles, candy canes, but all with a twist.

In fact we know of one family with a two and half year old who went with friends and said they all enjoyed the show for different reasons.  And there were certainly lots of families enjoying the show the night we were there.

Kids love all the colour and lights. It is a magical mystery tour...

Kids love all the colour and lights. It is a magical mystery tour...

I think twilight is the best time to visit.

I think twilight is the best time to visit.

What's with the toilet and basketball net?

What's with the toilet and basketball net?

Lego gone wild?

Lego gone wild?

What is Christmas without a Gingerbread House?

What is Christmas without a Gingerbread House?

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Dragons and other mythical creatures are everywhere.

Dragons and other mythical creatures are everywhere.

What would Christmas be without a pirate ship? 

What would Christmas be without a pirate ship? 

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Parents Beware

Parents be prepared to answer some difficult questions like “Why are those people sitting in toilets in shopping carts on the roller coaster?” Or “Why are those naked people painted yellow and have animal horns on their heads?”

There is Santa riding a military tank and hundreds of toilets incorporated into various artworks – what kid doesn’t like some toilet humor. Watch out for the dinosaur clutching a stuffie in its mouth. Fortunately, for the younger children they will be mesmerized by the lights, colour and everything going on to see the “devil in the details.”

You might expect this in a major contemporary art gallery in New York City or London, but not in a very conservative residential neighbourhood in Palm Springs.

You might expect this in a major contemporary art gallery in New York City or London, but not in a very conservative residential neighbourhood in Palm Springs.

Guns, Guns, Guns.....

Guns, Guns, Guns.....

Close-up of the many figures that are incorporated into the body of the figures. You could spend hours examining the details of each piece and speculating on why the artist chose to incorporate the pieces he did for each creature.

Close-up of the many figures that are incorporated into the body of the figures. You could spend hours examining the details of each piece and speculating on why the artist chose to incorporate the pieces he did for each creature.

This is not a working roller-coaster, but still very evocative.

This is not a working roller-coaster, but still very evocative.

Why?

Why?

There are literally hundreds of toilets....

There are literally hundreds of toilets....

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Nothing is sacred....

Nothing is sacred....

Contemporary snowwoman?

Contemporary snowwoman?

Kids.....hang-on to your stuffies.

Kids.....hang-on to your stuffies.

This one is for my buddy Rhys!

This one is for my buddy Rhys!

Last Word

In an LA Times interview in November 2015, Irwin stated  “My main intention is to provide people with immense pleasure through the work that I do. There's not really any deep meaning in my art. It's basically for the whimsy of it." He identifies four themes to his work – robots, extra-terrestrial, holidays and Islamic culture.  He has said publicly “nothing is sacred to him.”

From a curatorial perspective I loved the tension created by the juxtaposition of mythical and macabre characters. Given the number of toilets in various contexts, one can help but wonder if Irwin is a modern day Duchamp.  The monochromatic figures from recycled objects recall the sculptural work of Lousie Nevelson. Robolights is an ambitious art installation that builds on the work of the surrealist. It is a mash-up of Halloween and Christmas.

We were there for a good hour wandering the labyrinth of narrow pathways and could have stayed longer, but my camera’s battery ran out of juice. 

I would definitely go back again. 

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