If you see a person in a hazmat suit hooked up to a portable air conditioning unit walking down your block, it has absolutely nothing to do with Legionella bacteria.
From now until September 3rd, a temperature-controlled, sentient performance sculpture will wander the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn as part of an ongoing art piece by Satisfixation LLC.
The futuristic "corporation," founded in 2010 by Gregory James, has all the eccentricities and mystique of an absurdist underground art collective, which may be exactly what it is. For now, the founder isn’t putting any labels on it—perhaps because he’s too busy pushing around a 300 pounds of not-so-state-of-the-art machinery.
Despite sounding next-generation, the Mobile Personal Climatification Unit Series 200, as the piece is titled (MPCU for short), is about as streamlined as Nuts-4-Nuts vendor.
Atop a classic red Radio Flyer sits a bulky generator and a stainless steel A/C unit ("A distinctively suburban America aesthetic," James says), feeding cool air through an arching overhead exhaust duct and into the neck of the performer’s full body suit. The apparatus also has an additional, more socially-orientated vent that shoots out cold air for passersby to enjoy.
From an aesthetic and functional standpoint, the whole contraption looks ridiculous. It’s more Metropolis than metropolitan. But the farce is designed to evoke the often-overlooked big picture realities of our increasingly technology-driven society, with all its constantly evolving apps and expanding start-up communities, simultaneously collective-minded and egocentric.
James calls the piece "an abrasive joke on our social dysfunction and over-reliance in technology."
It takes a small, personal problem—like having to function in uncomfortably warm weather—and looks only to soothe that specific, immediate inconvenience, without regard for posterity (not unlike many stores in Manhattan).
While James walks around, a volunteer passes out flyers that read: "Finally, a most practical solution to resist unfathomable climate...Regain your independence and experience the GREAT OUTDOORS!"
"People have been very cordial," James told us after the first day of the performance, which took place in Chelsea. "More so than when I’m outside the suit, actually.”
The Mobile Personal Climatification Unit 200 Series performance will be held select weekdays through September 3rd, weather permitting. Be sure to check the Satisfixation LLC website for up-to-date scheduling, locations, and volunteer opportunities. A live-tracking feature is also available through the website.
On September 18th, Satisfixation will continue its Mobile Personal Series with two different performances, Mobile Personal Suburbanification Device and Mobile Personal Illuminification System, which have to do with personal space and our fear of darkness, respectively.
Adrian Muoio is a professional stoop squatter and sporadic freelancer based in NYC.