What is art?

That is often a hard question to answer.

And artists like Crank Sturgeon make it even harder to answer. Which, if you believe art should constantly be stretching the bounds of imagination and creativity, is a good thing.

So what kind of art does Crank Sturgeon create, exactly?

“I’m a multimedia artist, working primarily in sound performance and assemblage and installation,” said the artist, whose real name is Matt Anderson. “Lately, I’ve been building these gi-normous, inflatable, semi-transparent cloud structures powered by fans that I might link up to touch-sensitive devices in the floor that trigger them when someone walks into the room.”

Oh.

You might get the idea that what Anderson does for his art is hard to explain. Luckily, people can see for themselves on Friday — and at various times during the next three weeks — at Space Gallery on Congress Street in Portland.

Creating under his Crank Sturgeon moniker, Anderson will be an artist in residence at Space during that period, creating art that has big doses of goofy playfulness and Rube Goldberg-like inventiveness.

Friday will be the kick-off of the residency, held during the city’s First Friday Art Walk. People who come into Space between 5 and 8 p.m. will see “the walls covered” with various visual images and have their ears filled with the sounds of all manner of objects being amplified, from the creaking of the floor to (possibly) an old personal watercraft found at the Windham dump.

Anderson says he’ll have two video artists working with him to project images on the wall. One will be projecting various pop-culture images doing weird things, like spinning Abraham Lincoln heads, while the other will be doing lots of splatter effects, like a Jackson Pollock painting.

Anderson’s big thing is building contact microphones that amplify the friction being made by an object, not the sound waves. So he can make a floor — or a boiling tea kettle, or the crinkling of a linen dress in the breeze — sound intense. Look for amplified objects to be part of the fun on Friday.

“I’ll be using lots of found sounds, amplifying things; maybe we’ll find a way to amplify that Jet Ski,” he said. “There’s a sense of play, trying to layer the serious with the absurd.”

On Friday, and for the following three weeks, Anderson will have several artists collaborating with him on his hard-to-describe creations, including HEX Beam, Greg Kowalski, id m theft able and Patrick Corrigan.

For the rest of his residency at Space — and he says people are welcome to walk in and see what he’s doing — Anderson will be building a sort of giant interactive Rube Goldberg invention in Space. He’s been building touch-sensitive analog devices (think the Clapper, “clap on, clap off”), and hopes to use them in the gallery. So if someone walks into the room, their footsteps may activate a device that turns lights off and on, or one of his giant inflatable cloud-like structures, making it rise in the room.

“You might walk on the floor and the noise will be amplified, then you might slam a door and something will inflate,” said Anderson.

At some point during his residency, Anderson hopes to have a giant scroll of paper, maybe on a motorized loop. He and others will draw on the paper with Sharpie markers, and those drawings will be used as the basis for mini-plays, films or performances at Space.

“Whatever I can get my hands on, I like to use,” said Anderson.

And whatever he gets his hands on — or can amplify, or can motorize — becomes art.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier