Washington, D.C.’s 5×5 Project Pairs Cherry Blossoms With Cutting-Edge Contemporary Art

After a limp, snowless, utter failure of a winter, residents of Washington, D.C. are reveling in the beauty of spring, a clearly-defined season marked by the spectacular blooming of 3,000 cherry blossom trees that line the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park. It was 100 years ago this year that the people of Tokyo, Japan presented the trees to Washington as a gesture of friendship, and the city is marking the "Centennial Celebration of the Gift of Trees" with parades, performances, fireworks, and other festivities. But 2012 offers more than just pretty pink flowers to capture your attention. This year, the Cherry Blossom Festival coincides with the 5×5 Temporary Public Art Project, a citywide outdoor art fair that features 25 temporary public art installations at places like the Library of Congress, the National Building Museum, and the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Both festivals get started this weekend, and while the cherry blossoms are a sight to behold, the art will take your brain to another dimension entirely. 

Among the artists featured is Wilmer Wilson IV, who has staged numerous performances throughout the city even though he’s still a student at Howard University. He’ll be participating in the 5×5 Project with a work of performance art entitled Henry "Box" Brown: FOREVER (pictured). The performances pay tribute to the historic 19th century figure Henry "Box" Brown, a slave from Wilson’s hometown of Richmond, Virginia who mailed himself to freedom in the north in a wooden crate. For the performance, Wilson will cover himself with three grades of postage stamps and walk into area post offices, asking to be mailed. (I think that as long as he doesn’t represent anything "liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous," he should be in good shape.)
 
Wilson’s work is just one of many fascinating 5×5 projects, so if you happen to be in our nation’s capital between now and April 27, check it out. And if you’re not nearby, consider visiting. Writer Jack Krajewski will be taking in the opening weekend festivities and will provide a full report for this site on Tuesday. 

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