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The Animus Arts Collective and the Flaming Cactus. Following them around and seeing how they make thousands of peoples’ lives a little bit better.

The first incarnation of The Flaming Cactus installation appeared in Astor Place at the beginning of August. Seeing it for the first time, you don’t really know what to make of it, only that it seems glad. It’s a piece of art that doesn’t necessarily produce complex emotions (you either love it or you hate it), but it does make you stop and think. The piece is made up of several of Astor Place’s very own lampposts curtained with thousands of multi-colored cable ties. What’s perplexing is the astounding simplicity of how a clever use of vibrant sympathies can inspire any emotion at all.

Overall, the installation is a cheerful expression that causes passer-by to lift their heads, if just for a second, and see something bright and colorful in place of steely-gray. Though a great deal of plastic is used in the installation, the fact that it reaches thousands of people each day should be enough to justify it considering the other items plastic is wasted on, even if only 1/10 of those people are effected. Regardless, after investigating further into the arts collective that erected The Flaming Cactus, I discovered they had done so in a way so as to minimize the environment impact. Each zip-tie is indeed still usable and currently remains in joyful stasis as art, rather than languishing in packaging.

Of course the installation in Astor Place has been up for about half a year now, but I wanted to find out more about the people who invest their time into making art like this and how they go about showing it to the public. I found The Animus Arts Collective. They’re a group of variously skilled DIY manufacturers of large scale sculpture. Previous work has included enormous glowing trees, a massive wooden mobius strip, and others which also generally involve a factor of spectator participation. Images of these are available on their website. Animus seems to have a special drive that makes them so prolific and so able to gather participation from every direction. It’s probably because of this that they are able to push forward on such ambitious work so often.

I wanted to get closer to the process of Animus Arts Collective. Soon after I contacted them for an interview, I discovered they had another iteration of The Flaming Cactus springing up in Tribeca. I followed them around interviewing them over a couple of weekends as we strung some 30,000 zip-ties together and strung them around lamp posts. Listen to the interview if you want to learn more about how it was done.

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/animus.mp3]

Lucas Green

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