The entire 1st UBT Study Model as of this morning

The entire 1st UBT Study Model as of this morning

UBT 1st study model with added details (see below) and projections. More images at the UBT Flicker Set 

a quick projection booth study

I was reviewing the the UBT 1st model yesterday with the thought of how can this be translated into a real space with only a few days to build. What will change? What worked? What did not? How much material will it need. How much should I plan out before the 2nd Think Tank in Texas? 

Then, at some point I decided to add a quick projection booth/ small room just to make a accurate guess at materials. 

UBT 2nd Study Model
UBT 2nd Study Model
UBT 2nd Study Model

That comes to around 6  2x4x10s, 18 2x4x8, 4 sheets of 4x8 plywood, and a roll of tyvek. 


ubt rnd
ubt rnd

Next Sunday, some people to come over to my home and we will work on what the UBT could be and how it could be built. We will talk. We might drink some beers. We will build a model with hot glue in my tiny living room while thinking of Texas.

In preparation for this get together, I’ve been collecting images and posting them in groups on this site. It might be helpful, at this point, to review them with you. This could help me think of what to say to everyone next Sunday. It will also distract me from the need to go visit all the artfairs in NYC this weekend which always makes me sad but for some reason I do anyways.  I think mandatory art fair viewing might be a law in NYC or something. 

Anyways. Some brief notes on UBT RnD

Backyard Theaters

If you look at this group of images, we find that 1. backyard theaters are somewhat  dark  (expect for those 2 guys in the bottom right) and 2. they takes place on grass (expect of the people in the pool and Brooklyn’s Rooftop Films) As the UBT will be held at night in the Aurora Picture Show’s quasi-suburban backyard, I think we can pull this off.

Tents and Tarps

An ex once told me “the beginning of civilization was the end of camping”. I think she was right but I still like nomadic materials and spaces. Screw civilization, I want to toss my home in a small bag and move it to a beach for the weekend. It’s paradise. Or at least it is paradise until the rain comes and the mosquitoes figure out where you are sleeping.  

Shacks and Barns

A shack or a barn is a definite a three little pig upgrade from a blue rain tarp tossed over some tent poles. Also, a good shack or barn is sexy. Don’t believe me? Go look for a hour. You’ll come back here all Homer Simpsoney “ …Mmmmmmm…Wainscoating…” (Disclaimer for mom. No, it’s just a blog with pictures of cute cabins and shacks. Really.)

Landmarks and Compounds

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.

The opening lines of Wallace Stevens’s  Anecdote of the Jar

Stages and Studs

A tarp on a pole creates a site. Then a cabin becomes a object. Then a series of objects in relation to each other and the site forms a compound.  Then the realization, once or see unfinished back of a wall or turn around to notice the camera, you are on a set. I think this is what the UBT can be. A set for the display of other sets on a spring night in Texas.  

Begin to Build a UBT.


UBT site concept JPG, 2011

It might be best to start at the beginning and work our way to the end. This may not be the most coherent path but bear with me. I hope this will make some sense along the way or, at least, be enjoyable in the process.

Once upon a time,  I wanted to build a theater with you, in the backyard, in the spring.

The backyard is a hidden universe. It is a closed world of BBQ, warm nights, and sprinklers. It is a kingdom guarded by tree forts and garden sheds. It is populated by citizen star gazers, blanket layers and mosquito dodgers.  Let’s build a Universal Backyard Theater together.

So, here is the UBT plan so far…


Photos of Some Group Assemble Required (SGAR) at OTO, Brooklyn, NY, 2007

Step 1. UBT Brainstorming and Beer in Brooklyn.
Sunday March 18 from 6 to 8pm, in Brooklyn, NY,

We will gather together some friends and begin to plan how to make a one night environment for media in the backyard of the Aurora Picture Show in Houston Texas this April. We will drink some beer and talk about possible components of a the UBT. We will talk about how the components could be built.

Screen? Screens? Seats? Walls? Bar? Popcorn? Sound? Sounds? Lights? Booth? Windows? Plants? Modular? Tents? Power? Stage? Fence? Barricades? Shack? Tower? What else? etc.

As the goal is to group build the UBT, we will then attempt to construct together the first model of the space. The model does not need to be anything that could be duplicated at the site. It will be more about thinking out loud with our hands. We hope this model building process will guide us to some possibilities for the final UBT. The UBT Brainstorming and Beer in Brooklyn will be streamed at

If you would like to participate in person send me a email  - mriver at and I’ll give you the details. 

Step 2 -  UBT Brainstorming, Beer and BBQ in Texas
Aurora Picture Show Office and Library, 1524 Sul Ross, Houston, Texas

On Wednesday, April 11, 6:30-8:30PM. We will hold a Brainstorming, Beer and BBQ at the site. We will over the project and review what we worked on in the Brooklyn Brainstorming and Beer session. We will group build a second model and then attempt a beginning layout the backyard site. We will also eat Texas BBQ which, I think, will give the UBT the correct local mindset.  

ARTBarn (West)
artb (west)
Photos of All Raise This Barn (West), commissioned by ZER01 the 01SJ Biennial in San Jose, CA, 2010

Step 3 - Build the UBT

We will build as much as we can on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday April 14, we will invite anyone who is interested in joining us to finish, decorate, and detail the UBT space from 11AM-5PM. 

ARTBarn (East)

Photos of All Raise This Barn (East) on the campus of RPI. Commissioned by EMPAC as part of the Filament Festival. Troy, NY 2010

Step 4 - Turn the UBT on, invite people in and show some art.

On Saturday, April 14, at 8pm we will hold a free public screening/ opeing at the UBT. What will we show? Well, anyone who worked mentally or physically on the UBT is, of course, invited to screen a work. We will also ask some people to send us some works around the idea of building and communities. The folks at Aurora are going to dig into their archive for some works around the same themes. Personally I would like to perform the third public attempt of a Live Dramatic Reading (Disconnection of HAL 9000’s Higher Functions)

10.10.10 x10

Photo of the 2nd Attempt at a Live Dramatic Reading (Disconnection of HAL 9000’s Higher Functions) at the Beal Center, Irvine , Ca, 2010

I’m not sure how well it fits within the theme of building and communities. Actually, that work is more about unbuiling and isolation.  Although it might not fit the theme, I’ve done performed it in Brooklyn and Irvine California and people seem to like it. So, I’ll give it another shot in Texas.  Or maybe I’ll just screen a mass of large Brookyn guys dancing around with a band and massive sculptural tower on their shoulders at night. It seems very UBT.

Anyways, that’s the UBT plan so far. We’ll have more details and updates on this site as we go along. I hope you will join us.

An Introduction to UBT


MTAA’s Universal Backyard Theater (UBT)  

at The Aurora Picture Show, Houston, Texas

Wednesday, April 11, 6:30-8:30PM Brainstorming, Beer and BBQ 

Saturday, April 14, 11AM-5PM, Screening at 8PM - Free Admission

Location: Aurora Picture Show Office and Library, 1524 Sul Ross, Houston, Texas

View Larger Map

Inspired by old-fashioned barn raisings, which brought the community together in a social framework of interdependence to build a structure from scratch, Aurora Picture Show has commissioned the New York based art collaborative MTAA to perform a 21st century variation on this community gathering with a “pop-up” twist. A backyard in Spring is the perfect location to gather around the projector’s flicker, so Aurora Picture Show invites the public to help us raise a temporary cinema in our backyard! MTAA will host a public brainstorming session in New York and Houston to create the concept, design and construction of a Universal Backyard Theater (UBT) at the Aurora Picture Show. The UBT works as a collaborative process to welcome the community in the creation of this sculptural cinema environment raised to present a one night screening of short film, video and performance. 

While MTAA will start the design process in New York, it will be completed in Houston with a brainstorming session on Wednesday, April 11th  where  the community is invited to help design all aspects of the space, including architectural, aesthetic, and labor choices.  Will it have windows?  What shape will it be? Have some BBQ and beer while you hammer in our one day speed build this day too.  Then on Saturday, April 14, during the Menil Community Arts Festival, help finalize and decorate the space as we prepare for a one-night only screening in the Universal Backyard Theater.  After the event, MTAA and Aurora Picture Show will reclaim or donate the materials used to build the UBT so that the theater will live on in another useful form. Special thanks to Saint Arnold Brewery for their support of this program.