ONG2 Grant Winner and St. Louis Born, New York trained artist and developer Matt Ruzicka writers a personal journey into ONG2, 4 and Beyond.

I discovered ONG in Spring of 2019 via an email from the fabricatorz mailing list. It included an open invitation to hack on day-of-show art projects for ONG2, the second of the ONGs. I had been wanting to continue a project I had been calling “evolvable sound” and ended up building an interactive terminal that show-goers could use to hear and evolve sounds. After doing two more projects in a series I’m now referring to as “evolvable,” I received a message about collaborating on a piece for ONG3.

Unique to ONG3 was a collaboration with The Luminary’s Conterpublic, a triennial exhibition which ran from April 13th to July 13th, 2019. ONG3 AKA the “Counterpublic Close Out Club Night” went late into the final night of Counterpublic at Treffpunkt, a church turned event space near Cherokee Street in St. Louis. For the duration of Counterpublic, the former church featured a large midair banner installation by Cauleen Smith entitled “Sky Will Learn Sky.” On the final night, the banners were accompanied by DJs and installations selected and designed just for the night.

ONG has various expanded names, among them is “Only Next Generation,” as the events tend towards the electronic and experimental. ONG3, or “One Night Groupshow” to use another of ONG’s spellings, featured DJs “BEARCAT”, “He Valencia”, and “RA Child”. Their music pumped from the basement and echoed over the collaborative creations and curations of ONG, BIOTA, and Counterpublic director Katherine Simóne Reynolds.

The first floor featured sculptures constructed from repurposed plastic tubing, projections, expansive lighting, as well as a kava bar. On the 2nd floor balcony of Treffpunkt, the thumps of the basement collided with the metallic wilderness sounds of Justin Enoch, produced to ambulate over an immersive, hybrid garden sculpted by Dwight Portocarrero. Embedded in the soil mounds of the hybrid garden were small, “evolvable” spotlights that illuminated Portocarrero’s hybrid plant sculptures and whose properties continually morphed depending on the movements of people through the garden.

The highlight of the night for me, in addition to amazing conversations with super interesting people, was watching others interact with the space. I was fairly single minded in my thoughts all night, thinking through a sort of thesis on how interactive and immersive art challenges the expectations of viewers, especially in unknown, unlabeled spaces and how the boundaries of installations are continually transformed through observation, interaction, and discovery. It is this kind of play with space that draws me to ONG and its worlds of novel experimentations and stream-punkesque futurisms. I hope to see the experimental worlds of ONG continue to expand and evolve well into the future.

Matt Ruzicka