More behind-the-scenes images from the Great Chicago Fire Fest preview | Bleader

More behind-the-scenes images from the Great Chicago Fire Fest preview



I overcome . . .
  • Alex Friedland
  • "I overcome . . ."

In her column this week, arts writer Deanna Isaacs shared her impressions of the inaugural Great Chicago Fire Fest, a $2 million fire-on-water spectacle that Redmoon will stage on the main branch of the Chicago River in October. Last week Redmoon invited "donors and VIPs" (and journalists and photographers) to get an early look at what they're working on.

The city has thrown $350,000 at the project in the hopes that it becomes an iconic yearly event that'll draw attention from around the globe. Though a spectacular fire may do that, Isaacs is dubious about the current plan, a "communal exorcism," as she calls it, that focuses on overcoming hardships as a city and as individuals. She writes:

Chicago is largely presented as a city of victims—its hapless residents defined by the personal and societal evils they've managed to survive. The Fire Festival has a tagline that says it celebrates "Chicago's stories of grit and renewal," but there's something smarmy about going into the city's neighborhoods—including some of its most challenged—and thinking you're getting people's stories by asking them to complete a short sentence about what they've had to overcome.

This take on the city, as a hub of mass recovery, isn't likely to inspire any travel plans by the international set. It seems, in fact, to be at odds with Emanuel's goal of building an image of a Chicago powerful and glamorous enough to be a global destination. And the Fire Festival doesn't look to be the drunken orgy that fuels Mardi Gras in New Orleans, either. What Redmoon is producing is something much more sober: a symbolic communal exorcism.

Granted, it's better than the original concept, effectively a parade and ritual burning of effigies representing neighborhood-specific ills. Instead you'll see floats that resemble Victorian-era homes going up in flames to reveal, well, we're not quite sure yet, but it's bound to be a spectacle, for better or worse.

See more images from the preview below.

  • Alex Friedland

  • Alex Friedland

  • Alex Friedland

  • Alex Friedland

  • Alex Friedland

  • Alex Friedland

  • Alex Friedland