“Waiting On a Train”, Deep Ellum, Texas


When I found out that Deep Ellum, a neighborhood in the Dallas area, had robot sculptures, I knew I needed to make a trip. Well, I actually had been thinking about including more Dallas and DFW locations on the blog, but robots definitely helped to tip the scales. Was this as close as I would get to a modern automated future as promised by  The Jetsons, Small Wonder and Knight Rider? If cars couldn’t fly in 2019, I figure that I can at least appreciate futuristic art.

“The Traveling Man” is an installment of 3 sculptures by artist Brad Oldham, depicting “The Awakening“, “Waiting on a Train” (seen here) and “Walking Tall” of this robot figure. The structures, composed of polished metal and rivets, welcome you to the area, paying homage to the neighborhood’s railway, industrial and art roots. The statues replaced murals which were once considered the welcoming symbol of the district as the construction of the light rail system expanded.

Houston and Dallas have long held a friendly and playful rivalry. Across the length of the Interstate 45 corridor you can find varied opinions of either major metropolitan area, but in the same way I understand sibling rivalry. Both “The H” and “The Big D” reserve the right to exclusively critique one another. Usually, this manifests itself surrounding sporting events both at college and pro levels. Someone will usually point to overtly broad characterizations of Houston’s Oil ties or Dallas’ Socialites. Then we crack a few jokes to rib at each other, watch the game and wait until our next get together to do it all over again.

I understand that there has been a plan in the works for awhile now that would produce a high speed rail, often defined as “bullet train”, between downtown Dallas and Houston. The current 4.5 hour drive time would decrease to 90 minutes between the two cities with the rail moving as fast as 186 miles per hour. What that practically looks like has yet to be developed, but that little bit of futuristic advance seems promising.

The track this week is from “Nufonia Must Fall”, a live action puppet event created by Kid Koala that travels for limited engagements around the country. As the show moves from city to city, elaborate set designs are transported to new locations as the live puppetry is projected in real time onto a screen and soundtrack is performed by Koala.  The narrative follows one robot in his pursuit to be noticed and express his love for a customer at his workplace, Malorie. The performance, which has very little actual dialogue, does pull musical references as varied as Duke Ellington and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” Soundtrack. The track is “A Robot Tries To Write A Love Song” from the live show, which is an apt description as well as title.

What impressed me most about being able to attend “Nufonia Must Fall” wasn’t just the concept of a graphic novel transcribed by a talented DJ and musician, nor the main protagonist being a robot but the production skill needed by all the puppeteers and team members to make the art cohesively shine. Watching the stage and not just the projected story, I was able to see how graceful of a dance it is to have an automated set light up to keep the pace of the prescribed performance. After the show, the audience is invited to check out the set and interact with the team. There may have been somewhere around 7 of the robot figures constructed for use at different scenes in the show. It takes teamwork and connection to make sure not only does everything line up, but that is appropriately paced.

As Valentine’s day arrives this week, I am contemplating the similarities of companionship/partnership and Nufonia. Teamwork is what makes the dream work. May we all find with what we align and pace accordingly, be that 0 to 186 miles per hour.

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