Durham News: Opinion

Pierce Feelon: More than the sum of their arts

Pierce Freelon
Pierce Freelon

Filmmaker/storyteller Saleem Reshamwala and visual artist/clothing designer Gabe “Gets” Eng-Goetz are from another planet.

Last month, they premiered an art-project at The Carrack Modern Art gallery featuring cardboard cutouts of Matt Damon, giant McDonald’s cups, short films, mannequins, photography and live music.

Some artists take months, or years to put an exhibit together. Reshamwala and Gets gave themselves 24-hours.

The experiment was called “We Take Requests: A 24-Hour Art Slam.” On Thursday, March 27, they canvased downtown Durham asking random people what they would like to see in a themed art show.

Then, over the next 24-hours, Reshamwala, Gets, and several other local creatives built a multi-media, crowd-sourced exhibit inspired by the requests. The Slam premiered on Friday, March 28, with interactive exhibits, performances, and screenings at The Carrack in downtown Durham.

While I was not personally able to make it to the opening, I was encouraged to contribute. On Thursday evening, Reshamwala posted a video documenting his process of soliciting art-show themes on the We Take Requests Facebook page. He also published a list compiling everyone’s suggestions, which I studied and used as inspiration for a song. I decided to sample NPR’s “All Things Considered” theme for the beat, and wrote lyrics about the various topics on the list. Just as I was engineering some finishing touches, my 5-year old son Justice interrupted the session and ended up adding a verse to the song.

After emailing Reshamwala the finished track, it dawned on me that this song would be the first public release that I had completely self-produced.

I have been making music for over 15 years, and have co-produced dozens of songs, and written hundreds, but I had never written, recorded, produced and engineered my own song from scratch. I was taken aback at how effortlessly I was able to check the accomplishment off my bucket list. I attribute the ease with which I was able to step into new creative territory, to Reshamwala and Gets’ fearlessness. Watching them create on the fly encouraged me to push my limits.

Both Reshamwala and Gets recently left steady 9-to-5 jobs, to start their own businesses. They were admirers of each others art, but didn’t start working together until this year. The timing could not have been better. Reshamwala was coming off a productive year, launching his “Rather Unusual Video Corporation” called KidEthnic. He traveled the world shooting music videos and short documentaries, while building an impressive reel with local businesses; including a successful Kickstarter campaign with Art of Cool and a national holiday commercial for Soccor.com.

Gets has found similar success with his company Runaway Clothes. His DURM-branded gear is a staple in the local music community, and rivals the popularity of Durham Bulls attire among some members of the general public. In addition to making clothes, Gets feeds his creativity through multi-media art-shows and by designing album covers and posters for bands.

Reshamwala and Gets’ first collaborative project was on the art-direction of an UNC-TV and PBS web-series called Beat Making Lab. Reshamwala was so impressed with the workflow, that he invited Gets to share his office space at The American Underground on Main Street in Durham. The 24-hour Art Slam was only their second collaboration. Like Voltron, Reshamwala, Gets, and other Durhamites’ combined powers are more awesome than the sum of their arts.

Imagine if they had more than one day to let their juices marinate.

Who else might they influence to innovate, or to do things a little differently?

We need more creative energy, bold collaborations, risk taking and fun in our lives. This is what We Take Requests represents, to me.

I tip my hat to mad scientists and imaginative improvisers like Reshamwala and Gets. I’m glad they left their 9-to-5 jobs, to pursue their passions and create projects that inspire and invigorate our community. Even as an absentee contributor, I was moved by the 24-Hour Art Slam. It awakened a dormant creative energy, which I didn’t even realize was trying to get out.

Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of these two.

You can reach Pierce Freelon at pfreelon@gmail.com and on Twitter @Durhamite