Eaten alive by paintball-splattering lust? Find sweet release with “Paintball By Numbers,” a mural-making cacophony executed by art collective the Amateurs. Their lowbrow, yet high-concept premise is to sketch a paint-by-numbers landscape outline on a 10’ x 25’ wall inside Queens’ the Flux Factory. Arm two paintball turrets. Aim. Fire. Repeat. To participate, “you don’t need sniper blood running through your veins,” says Amateurs member Jeff Stark. “It will be fun, and it will be goofy, and we promise that we won’t get all macho or war game—it will feel more like a rambunctious gallery show where you get to play with the art.” And light artillery, specifically elite Tippmann paintball guns, which the company gifted the collective. They modified the weapons into “Dr. Seuss–like blunderbusses that are hard to aim.” Rounding out the evening are DJs and, fittingly, abrasive rock quartet Guns, Fire, Mayhem. Sadly, their name will be the evening’s most dangerous aspect. “Although we could have some sort of pressurized-air disaster,” Stark says, “the risk of explosion is, regrettably, low.”
Flux Factory, 3838 43rd St. (betw. Northern Blvd. & Skillman Ave.), LIC, 718-707-3362; 8, Free
--- Joshua M. Bernstein
Paintball by Numbers, set to debut at the Flux Factory in New York, is modern art that Rambo would go AWOL for. Taking the premise from paint-by-numbers books enjoyed by 3-year-olds the world over, organizers have turned a 10’ by 25’ brick wall into a monolithic canvas, adding contour lines to outline the intended image. With each internal area coded by number and colour, the artists hope that members of the great and good will turn up and help them complete their mural masterpiece.
Each participant will be armed with Elite Tippmann paintball weapons that, say the organizers, have been modified to ensure that aiming ability is significantly restricted. The masterful militia will then be positioned some 30 metres from the wall and asked to discharge their weapons of mass depiction, aiming as best they can at the appointed area.
While the resulting exhibit will represent a brave step forward in the world of landscape painting, this is not the first time that the worlds of art and paintball have crossed paths. Alternative art collective, The Madagascar Institute, are well known for having staged the Condiment War, a full-scale guerilla operation in downtown New York in which regular paintballs were substituted with packets of mayonnaise and ketchup.
Last Saturday a group of more than 200 mostly 20-somethings gathered at a Long Island City warehouse to drink beer, groove to live music and shoot paintball guns.
But this was no mere party, this was high-concept amateur art. The goal: use a paintball gun to color a massive paint-by-numbers landscape at the Flux Factory depicting famous Queens landmarks such as the Lemon Ice King and the New York State Pavilion.
“There’s something magical about taking guns and ammo and using that to make something as peaceful and simple as a painting,” said Mike Ross, an artist from Brooklyn, who got a nice machine gun swath across the lower section of the Triborough Bridge. “When have you ever seen a crowd of people together in a room cheering as a painting takes shape?”
“We’re into unpretentious art, art that’s fun, art that doesn’t make you feel stupid,” said Jeff Stark, a member of the Amateurs, the art collective that organized the event. He said using paintball guns was a good way to create a collaborative art piece because he “felt that people would like to shoot things.”
To this end, the group tried to make the act of shooting a fake gun “goofy” and “less macho” by making the gun “as ungunlike” as possible, he said. Everything in the show was recycled, from the two-liter seltzer bottles used to hold the paintball pellets to the turret’s base, made from 4-by-4s salvaged from a friend’s house and an old deck found down the street in the Pathmark parking lot.
At 8:50 p.m., a member of the Amateurs climbed into a raised turret made out of a Corvette seat and a rowing machine, loaded a specially made Tipmann paintball gun with periwinkle blue pellets, and aimed at a section of the 10-foot by 25-foot wall. The wall was set 10 yards away from the turret, adding to the excitement of watching a spectator event.
Despite the lack of air-conditioning, the room was full of people who crowded behind the turret, waiting in anticipation. “Thunk, thunk, thunk,” went the blue pellets as they exploded between an outline of the No. 7 train and another representing the Unisphere. The crowd erupted in cheers as the man emptied his magazine.
Most participants used only one color and aimed carefully. But when one filled his hopper with different-colored pellets and sprayed at the wall randomly, the 60 or so people in the room booed. “It was a collective emotion that came out. We are part of this thing together,” Stark said. “To create a situation in an ostensibly art environment for people to have such a vested interest that they boo is fascinating.”
Paintball by Numbers was sponsored by Tipmann and New York Paintball Arena, Queens. It is a smaller version of two projects the Amateurs will create at the Urban Festival in Zagreb, Croatia and the Robodock festival in Amsterdam this September.
“The Paintball by Numbers projects take these toy-weapons and reappropriated them for the purpose of making art,” Ross said. “The funny thing is: it’s paint. That’s what paint was originally for anyway—making art.”
Flux Factory is located at 38-38 43rd Street, behind the Pathmark on Northern Boulevard. The Amateurs will post photographs of the Queens event and a still video at www.paintballbynumbers.com.