Monday, December 14, 2009

Oh Yoko!

Dear Yoko Ono,

Yesterday I was reading a copy of Grapefruit, and shortly before burning it (as the dustcover instructs), I thought you deserved a letter.  You are a genius and I will openly confess my love for you.  Out of all of the artists that inspire Mundane Mischief, you are the big kahuna.  I won't pretend for a minute to understand you, but that is part of the point.  To me, your art exists in acknowledging and breaking interpersonal borders and causing the viewer (observer? coconspiritor?) to see the beauty in this outrageous and boring world.

Many critics of modern art justify their conventional (tight ass) ways by claiming that it isn't art if anyone can do it.  And here I display my evidence to the contrary.

(New Math by Craig Damrauer,
I consider Water Piece to be awe-inspiring.  The page says one word on it.  "Water."  It isn't every day that a person acknowledges the beauty and thought-provoking nature of this terrifying and miraculous substance.  You have made art out of ordinary life.

Something must be said about The Beatles.  I am an enormous fan.  And I must say that I do not believe that you are the reason they broke up.  Anyone who knows anything about them knows about the intense creative energy they had and how sometimes two many creative minds clash.  Then again, sometimes they work well together, like you and John.  I believe you brought him to new creative heights and together you acted as great humanitarians.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I've Been Quiet

So, when my iPod realized that I was capable of awkwardly interacting functioning without it (check out my live blog Twitter posts to the right), it committed seppuku. I guess I have to start living my life against my mission statement.  Damn, just because I acknowledged that I was a hypocrite didn't mean that I was ready to stop being one.  R.I.P. iPod.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

To Be Continued And Revised...

As I mentioned in the past two posts, I had an adventure in the city.  Me and Other Dana took a road trip down from Albany to Brooklyn for a Dirty Projectors show at The Music Hall of Williamsburg.  Call me a hipster wannabe, but Williamsburg is one of my favorite places to go in NYC; there is plenty of great graffiti (pictures are coming, but right now I am blogging from my parent's house), indie comic book stores, and of course, vegan restaurants.

 Before heading down, Dana and I decided to make some homemade stickers (Priority Mail Labels are free) to post up around town.  Dana even remade some of the images we'd attempted failed at with spray paint. The graffiti artists here are amazing.  No doubt some of this art is commissioned, or created by the building owners, and though that may be less exciting, it still makes this neighborhood a vibrant, happy place.  Someday I want to upgrade to making stickers like this one.  We took to the train platforms with chalk and Dana drew a great White (Blue?) Rabbit waiting for the train.  As usual, I stuck to words

As the concert drew near, we chowed down at Foodswings (the wet dream of any fast-food deprived vegan), and I was thrilled to see that though ownership had changed hands, the bathroom was still graffiti-friendly, so I added my two-cents in.  The concert itself was mind-blowing and possibly spiritual (they do a cover of the Black Flag song, "Spray Paint (The Walls)" ). but it ended much later in the evening than we had intended to leave.  The lines for the merch table were unbelieveable, and add in autographs, and some time spent subtly liberating posters from the walls, and we found ourselves running, hysterical, to the subway.  On the way, were were snapping shots of some great art and I was shouting about how sad it was that the night had to end so soon. 

As we squeezed onto the L, I had a classic OCD moment of doubt. I yelled to Dana, "Get off! It's the wrong train!," and she just managed to pull herself through the closing doors as I realized I was freaking out for no reason.  Still, the great thing about NYC is that there are trains running all the time and another would be there soon, we had fifty minutes to get to Grand Central anyway, and only four stops to traverse.  Twenty minutes later the next L arrived.  It took twenty minutes between each stop.  People were screaming, "what the hell is wrong with this fucking train!?" Several women were crying.  I was crying too, because I was crazy, and now we were stuck in the city.  We arrived at Grand Central twenty mintues after we were supposed to.  After the last train out of the city leaves, the terminal is barricaded off.  So much for sleeping in the plastic arm chairs in Dining Concourse.            

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Little Tale Of L Train Mischief

This weekend there was chalking, stickering, and a little street life.  As the bitter drunk hipster told me, "Do my fingernails look dirty? Damn, I guess I am giving you lots of material for your blog, can't wait for the book next year."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Capital of Mischief

Other Dana and I are off to NYC, the capital of Mischief, to see the Dirty Projectors (type their name into this website to hear some of their stuff).  My personal favorite is "Rise Above," their cover reinterpretation of Black Flag's original (which was already good).  They lie somewhere between punk, tribal music, and experimental, with just a touch of new-age-y weirdness.  They're creepy and exhilarating; this is music for one thinks up mischief to.

I will have my camera, so I will be sure to take any fun pictures, as we run around Williamsburg, high on vegan junk food from Foodswings (practically an orgasmic experience).  Expect graffiti pictures.  Maybe we should bring chalk.  Holy shit, we're bringing chalk!  Oh, the powers of introspective writing! Well, I gotta go get my red velvet Doc Martens laced (there's thirteen holes, baby!).  

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mischief in Person

Hey everyone,
I am going to be liveblogging on Sunday, November 29th at 6:30ish p.m.  I intend to sit for an hour in Washington Park (or at the Crossgates Mall if the weather is icky).  During that time expect to see me dressed strangely and reporting back on my interactions.  I may even hand out little notes, or whatever the moment inspires me to do.  I will give more information on a specific time as it draws closer. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Little Christmas In November

Last night I was feeling up for a blog task, but I had a floor program in my dorm.  I could have skipped out, but this is the first house I've lived in on campus where the girls act as a cohesive group.  There's sharing, sweetness, and plenty of sassy-ness.  Just to give you an idea of what it's like here, the night I went to do graffiti, I was in the kitchen with my partners in crime discussing in very vague terms what was going to go down.  Two of the girls, who I barely knew at the time, walked in.  One of them cut in,"Green paint shows up best, just so you know," and I was flabbergasted.  I love these girls.

I'm going to be moving out soon into a box new apartment, which is kind of ironic considering how much I've grown to like it here.  So I took our holiday decorating party last night as a chance to show the girls a little love and bake them some Vegan Butter Balls, alias: Russian Tea Cakes, alias: Mexican Wedding Cookies, alias: Snowballs.  I baked about three dozen, thinking I would have enough left over for the next task I've been thinking about (you'll see).  The three dozen cookies were gone in about 45 minutes, and the decorating commenced.

Without realizing it, our decorating got a little mischievous. 

I remember going to my aunt's house Christmas Eve and going to the bathroom; there was a santa shower curtain, santa fuzzy toilet seat cover, santa rug, santa (santa-scented?) candle, santa soap dispenser, and santa hand towels.  So cheesy, but as every vegan will admit, cheese tastes so good.  This is in memory of that.  I call it, "Jingle Towels".

G, and M (he may as well be another girl in the house), made a mountain range out of tree trimming beads.  M delicately crafted some tiny mountain inhabitants, and he saw that it was good.  These hill-billies included Vishnu, Skiers, The Abominable Snowman, Jack Skellington.  Every world must have its good and its evil, so there were also sufferers of various climbing disasters, like avalanches, and abyss-falling.  I hate when that happens. 

Back to the bathroom,  I was thinking about the lyrics to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", when, just like Martin Luther, the monk who founded the Protestant Reformation, I had a tower experience (read the third paragraph, there is poop involved).  Click to enlarge it, then zoom, and see what his hat says on the white trim.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another Stranger

Now that I'm back at Mundane Mischief, I've been reflecting about the work I've done so far.  I reread some of my entries to see if I have returned with new perspective, and I have.  The truth is that Only A Real Elf is cowardly.  I am a person that believes in the possibility of the best, but assumes the worst.  The dark changes things, but what changes even more when night falls is that the curtain falls away revealing my hypocrisy.

I look back on my mission statement and I see how in many ways I am not yet a person strong enough to fulfill that endeavor.  I sit on the bus and I look at the people around me, I leave my headphones in my backpack.  I think about that woman in the very front who has the most delicate face, and I think about walking up to her and telling her. I think about that boy hanging off of the bus handle, reading a book so engrossing that he's willing to struggle against gravity and the sudden stops of the bus to continue reading.  I think about asking him what the book is about.  I look at them again and she looks tired, she wouldn't want to talk; he would probably think I was flirting, and he'd be annoyed that I disrupted his studies.  So, I reach into my backpack and I put on my headphones.  Someone asks to sit next to me, and I nod silently.  I do not make eye contact.

I know what must be done and yet I retreat into my shyness, into the dark autumn evenings, into my fear of what others think.  I see these strangers and I look at them with an artist's eye; I sculpt their past, and like Pygmalion, I fall in love.  But I also sculpt their tired, impatient looks, their fear, and their rejection of me. All of the observational powers that make me so curious and empathetic about strangers, are the very things that stop me.  Being a story- teller stops me.  To live Mundane Mischief you must be P'u, you must act as The Uncarved Block

It isn't the early sunsets that stop me; had I been doing this in Northern Alaska during June, that entry would have been about some other "obstacle".  This isn't about me facing strangers for their approval of what I believe in; this is about facing myself.  Who is this odd person that yearns for connectedness?

UPDATE: I guess that is what the title, "Learning To Love You More" really means.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

To Write Love On Her Arms (a guest blog by Tony G.)

It's like this little message fell into my hands right after I was assigned to work on Dana's blog. The message, "Love <3 write love on her arm - Nov. 13" seemed to mesh itself quite well into the mischievousness that is this blog.

I did my research (don't argue with me, Wikipedia counts as research) and found that this idea is a nationally organized event to support women who suffer from depression, drug addiction, and self injury. It's really neat how the community is so involved in this peculiar exhibit of affection.

What you need to do is take the scribble's advice and write Love on her arm this November 13th. I'll find somebody to tag with my spray paint! I'm probably joking. Depends on whether I have a sharpie sitting around.  

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Top 12 Mischevious Quotes

Here are some thoughts to consider as you suffer to create the art that is mundane mischief.  Here are some thoughts to consider when you are 22 years old and you find yourself dressed in corporate casual working as an Office Manager.  Here are some thoughts to consider when you crave to do something big, but find yourself on the internet, again.

Children have a natural antipathy to books - handicraft should be the basis of education. Boys and girls should be taught to use their hands to make something, and they would be less apt to destroy and be mischievous.- Oscar Wilde

I like stirring things up. I'm on the side of the kids more than I am on the adults. And occasionally I find some adults that have that same mischievous streak, so I don't get in too much trouble.-William Joyce

It is better to play than do nothing- Confucius

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.-Plato

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.-Annie Dillard

I am a genius all around. Everything I have made is splendid.-Yayoi Kusama

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.-Buddha

Life is something to do when you can't get to sleep.-Fran Lebowitz

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.-Albert Einstein

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.-Stephen Wright

Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.-Tom Robbins

How strange it is to be anything at all.-Neutral Milk Hotel

Friday, October 30, 2009

Things to Inspire Mischief on Mischief Night

Here's the Mundane Mischief way to make your Mischief Night awesome:

What's Mischief Night anyway, you ask?

So now that you know, maybe you aren't feeling like being arrested for graffiti or the other traditional nonsense.  Instead, try some of these ideas:

Speaking of witches, we hate her when it comes to The Beatles, but nobody helps us turn mundane mischief into a high art form quite like Yoko.  Obey her.

If you feel like cuddling, how about making a dollie... out of your dog's old teeth?

If you're home in the kitchen brewing something up tonight, here's some ingredients for that elixir.

Lastly, I know the holidays make some people feel a little lonely.  If you need a date for the Halloween Ball maybe these gentlemen could help (Coilhouse, Via: iCiNG).

Everyone's saying, "Be safe tonight."  I'll say, "Be a little dangerous."  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make my jellyfish costume.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wake Up! Swine Flu Is A Distraction

M called me up and said, “It is so nice out, I feel like doing something mischievous tonight.” Exactly the words I wanted to hear. I didn’t know what we were going to do, but it was the best feeling of potential I’d had in a while. I grabbed some supplies (note the lack of spray paint).

We gallivanted down the street, and found a bus stop.  We chalked.  I felt myself perk up, because I’d thought up a new idea. Politics were buzzing in my head.

We headed to Washington Park’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument. There were some anarchist bike punk types chilling beneath the statue, discussing obscure hardcore bands.  Potential witnesses? Helpers? Assholes?  M was a bit hesitant, a little concerned that I could get in trouble, but actually being in the park at night emboldened me, and I didn’t care. I took off my boots and my skirt (once again I find my outfit of choice for mundane mischief is spandex pants). I slipped the hospital mask (stolen from a trip to the hospital that M had earlier this year) into my bra. It was raining, and very slippery, so I climbed the statue with a little boost from M. M tossed up the duct tape.

It was much higher up there than I expected, but I was there. The punks ignored me the entire time, which made me feel much better. I hooked the mask around the statue’s ears (apparently, these masks are manufactured to accommodate gargantuan craniums!) and taped it, because you can never be too safe! I had planned to chalk the surrounding walls of the monument, but they were covered in relief work, so I slid down and chalked up the base. I didn’t get the spacing quite right, but I was in a hurry. I wasn’t about to get arrested for chalk art. The punks suddenly became curious about what I was doing. Had they not noticed me before?

“Graffin’,eh? What’s that? SWINE FLU IS A… D-I-S—disease?”

“Oh, we’re totally gonna get framed for this!”

I talked with them a little about the anti-vandalism truck (they called it the Defacer Eraser), and political stuff. They were pretty cool; I was worried that they would be cynical towards my sloppy beginner’s efforts—especially in topics they seemed so well-versed in, but I was wrong. I said my goodbyes to the lovely punk gentlemen and M and I dashed away.

Some joggers confronted us. “If you want to deface something, you shouldn’t do it to a soldier’s monument…”

I was too self-righteous to respond sweetly, because I put more thought into it than defacement requires.

“It’s hardly defacement if it washes away in the morning.”

I didn’t feel bad at all. Maybe I did something important, even if it only lasted for a few hours. I thought about what the statue represents, about the lives of soldiers. And I don’t think the public’s conscious is focused on what that statue symbolizes. And I don’t think their conscience is, either. If it was, people wouldn’t be in a berserker state over the swine flu right now. Action would be focused on what’s really happening, and how to stop that.

The next day, the mask remained, and the chalk was gone.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Only A Real Elf

The light of day gives people more security, it makes them more accepting of strange happenings; everything takes on a more sinister meaning when the sun sets. Walking down the street a night, most people become jumpy and hypersensitive to their surroundings-- the shadow in the alleyway might be something dangerous: a person ready to steal your money or an animal ready to attack.

Especially in Albany, the student population is frightened inside or relegated to a few select nightspots. If you are out and about under the stars, you are expected to have some target destination and traveling companions. Albany is not a wanderer’s city, or so we are cautioned.

On the whole, wholesome Albany goes to sleep by dusk.

Autumn’s been peeling away the precious daylight hours, and with it my chance at doing my mundane mischief. My confidence in completing the project diminishes, because the night brings out my own brand of fears. I may have some bold ideas, but I am afraid of frightening people. I am afraid of getting the cops called on me, because I approached a fearful person. Just once in my life, did a stranger threaten to call the police on me. I actually felt the adrenalin surge out into my bloodstream. I wondered if I’d really done anything wrong, but I wasn’t going to stick around and find out. I’ve known too many people who were arrested because the police just found them to be suspicious. They were later released, but I’d still like to avoid that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Word Spreads, Link Love, And A Little Jealousy

I’ve been telling my friends about this project and I’ve been getting some great feedback.  Apparently, there is something in the air, and the world opening up to many mischief-makers:
Z. sent me this blog post about a Japanese cafĂ© where you get whatever the person before you ordered.  Mystery Google is another great boredom buster for those days when I just can’t get out of my pjs and on to the plane to Tokyo.
M. sent me a clipping from the Albany Times Union about some artsy ladies biking around the capital and distributing free art. 
C. encouraged me to keep it positive (after seeing my slightly grim mission statement) and check out FMyLife’s more positive sister sites: MyLifeIsGood and MyLifeIsAverage.  Some of the posts are seem too good to be true, but who minds a little embellishment?

A housemate started doing what they call “The Original Wall Post”.  They went around campus and stuck clever and inspiring post-it notes up. 
Lastly, I found 1000 Awesome Things and I contemplated the adventures of my past on hot metal slides and splintery monkey bars.
 I am kicking myself a bit, because some of these ideas were very similar to things I wanted to do, and I fear being called a copy cat, but the autumn optimism urges me to smile at the abundance of new surprises Albany residents (Albanians?) might encounter when they walk out their door.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Strangers Holding Hands

Minutes ago, I asked two strangers to hold hands.  I cannot explain to you how that felt for me. 
Yesterday, I exclaimed that I would complete LTLYM assignment # 20 or 30, but I didn’t.  I had forgotten to carry my camera.
This morning, when I was on my way to the train station, I remembered what I had to do.

 I had a half an hour to work within, because my train was actually going to be on time.
So, the minute I stepped into the station I began looking around for people to approach.  There were many students and I was averse to photographing them.  It would be too easy to approach my peers and I didn’t think the task would hold as much significance for them as they belong to the generation of “randomness”.   There weren’t many people there at such an early hour, I began to doubt if I could actually pull this off.  I was about to take some scene pictures in preparation, but I saw a sign bearing that all- too- familiar post- 9/11 slogan: if you see something, say something (this one actually attempted to charm the public with animals).  I knew that walking around photographing a train station was suspicious.  I felt that had I been stopped, I would have been able to explain myself, but I didn’t want to miss my train, nor did I want to get myself into a situation that would frighten me out of approaching people.  
My train was coming in twelve minutes, but I felt strongly that I had to at least attempt the assignment now or I would psych myself out of doing it altogether.  I was already feeling shaky, but the pressure of the train’s arrival pushed me to act.  I approached this woman coming out of the Friar Tuck convenience store.  I was looking for someone whose body language conveyed a relatively good mood and that he or she was not pressed for time.  I said something like, “Excuse me, hi, my name is Dana, I’m a student at --- and I am doing a conceptual art project where my assignment is to photograph two strangers holding hands. I was wondering if you would be interested in participating.”  She grinned and happily agreed and asked how long it would take because her train would be here soon.

I told her mine was coming soon and she brought me over to her friend. My language had been unclear and she’d understood that the two people only had to be strangers to me, but really they also had to be strangers to each other.  I went to find someone else.  I wanted to find a man, because I thought that would enhance the way the task would challenge our social mores, but I knew immediately by the tired, barely tolerant look on his face that he would say no.  In my head I heard him saying scam artist and weirdo, but I had seven minutes to find someone else, and no time to feel bad. 
 I pinpointed a woman whom I’d spotted before.  She appeared to be traveling alone and she looked calm enough.  I approached her. She agreed, asking how long it would take, and I said only as long as it would take to snap a photograph.

We all discovered that we were traveling on the same train.  They continued to talk and somehow it came up that the third woman had traveled to Italy and they began comparing travel tales.  I was asked about how I liked the train and my major, schooling, and interests.  I was told it was a beautiful project.  One of the women said that she’d been a journalist and the best part of the job was getting to meet and interact with unfamiliar people.  I thought about asking them for their first names or initials, but I thought it was better this way. 
In the end, I wish I’d gotten more people to participate, but I was still so amazed at the incredible thing that did happen.  Strangers were experiencing a bigger moment together than they would have otherwise.  And they chose to continue that moment, that conversation, beyond the seconds it took to snap the photos.  I was exhilarated. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On Being A Psycho Who Does Psycho Things (Why I Want To Ask Strangers To Hold Hands)

I've got to get on top of my life.  I need to get on this blog, for my grade's sake.  And maybe, actually starting to do some more tasks will help me to feel a little less overwhelmed by everything else.

So, I just decided that tomorrow today I will do Assignment 20 or Assignment 30 from the website/ conceptual art project, Learning To Love You More.  Tomorrow is my heavy class/ work day, but in my 3(!) free hours, I think I can manage to head off of campus and take some pictures.

When I first began looking at Learning To Love You More, and seeing the completed assignments, I marveled at how many people actually participated. The idea of asking strangers to hold hands seemed invasive, but when I really sat down to consider it, perhaps that reaction less about my gut feelings and more about my internalized social mores.  Which is exactly what I am supposed to break here, so I've got to do this.

Still, I am worried.  I don't think anyone will punch me, or even call the cops.  I just don't want people to hurry away as if I am a psycho.  You'd think that someone as eccentric as myself would be comfortable with that.  Someone who wears blue wigs and 5-inch white platform boots out in public.  Someone who dances to the music in the supermarket.  Someone who started a blog like this.  But there's still a part of me that hurts a little when someone looks at me with that mix of scorn and fear.  And perhaps part of the reason I created this blog is because it can explain and justify to others the strange things I already do.

Enough analysis though.  In a few hours, I will post up some pictures of strangers holding other stranger's hands and of two unfamiliar families.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Describe This In Ten Words Or Less

I have been realizing that although I have a few ideas of my own (see picture), it would be extremely helpful to have more tasks available to choose from in the day. If you can read my frenzied handwriting, you’ll see that most of the ideas listed take place outside. This is a problem because I can feel the Albany winter fast approaching, and even if I do brave the elements, the other people who bundle up too may not be as interested in stopping to participate or observe.
I’ve been thinking of designing a business card—similar to the types that The Rent Project uses. They would explain my mission briefly and ask for ideas. The problem is that The Rent Project offered people payback—their 20 minutes of labor (help us to help you), whereas my project would only bring one the satisfaction of having participated…. I’m so pessimistic, but…
Anyway, even if I did make such cards up, what the heck would they say? I certainly can’t print up my entire mission statement—that’s a lot of ink. “Help me come up with small good deeds and random acts to liven up the neighborhood…” Hmm, maybe. “See for more details.” I would have to make the language more colorful, to get people interested enough to even turn on the computer. How do I describe in on a business card, something that's taking me an entire blog to understand?

UPDATE: I've been thinking about this business card idea some more, and I definitely want to do it.  It would be great to hand them out to people who witness the tasks as an explanation and an opportunity for them to further their involvement.

Backlogged Blog

Instead of doing my homework, I went sky- diving and I dyed my hair pink. I have been trying to think of some ways that these actions could enhance the work I am now extremely behind on, but they don’t. They were so rewarding that my procrastination problems have increased.

The Hooligan Behind The Blog

Who am I?

I’ll tell you that I hate answering this question, because at times I feel like a bundle of contradictions, and trying to navigate that makes me nervous. 

I think the most important thing to know about me is my motivations. I do this blog because there is an imbalance of weirdness. I feel the need to distribute some of the fun I have experiencing the silliness and beauty of everyday life. And I feel the need to experience more myself, so that I can get through the day happy. 

If you are still curious, here are some Dana factoids:

  • I dislike summarizing: books, movies, what someone said, what happened—I am much too impatient of a person. 
  • My dorm room walls are reminiscent of the way crazy movie characters decorate their walls.
  • I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As a result, I am extremely detail- oriented, to the point of distraction, and I am disorganized in all important matters.
  • I dress strangely. I wear wigs, extreme shoes, and tacky vintage finds, but I also wear jeans and t-shirts.
  • I pretend I am the host of a vegan cooking show.
  • I think skeletons are astonishing.
  • I get excited over tiny details that many people ignore; I am the weirdo that stops dead in her tracks to make eye contact with the squirrel eating old pizza. 
  • I can fall asleep almost instantly.

Postless Blogs And The Jargon Of Political Avoidance

I've been wondering how much of myself I must reveal in order for this blog project to work out.  I've worried so much about it that I haven't blogged, much to the chagrin of my professor. Even with my "What Is Mundane Mischief?" entry, he told me to speak at least a little about the person I am. I thought making the blog said enough about the type of person I am, so avoided changing it.  Then I started reading Heather and Brenda's blogs; they are so intensely open it put me in awe of their bravery and made me a little ashamed.  Heck, even Frank the can man has an introspective post.  So far, I have been trying to avoid being so open, but now I feel that that goes against the meaning of the whole blog, and that it falls short of the standards my peers have met.
Why am I hiding?  I guess that I am intimidated.  I fear that not only will the project be a complete flop, but that everyone in my class will know all about me and the reasons why I failed.  I have to get over it though-- my grade depends on it.
Further, considering how much of myself to reveal goes beyond simply identifying myself or making incriminating remarks, and into the very nature of the tasks I choose to do. I have been trying to get some ideas together to kick-start the blog action, so I met with a close friend and brainstormed some potential ideas, many of which have a political bent. I consider myself an activist on many fronts and I try to stay informed on current issues. Like anyone, my politics are part of what make me unique; still, that may be the very reason I must avoid politicizing this work. If I perform too many tasks that emphasize one political viewpoint, I risk alienating people with differing opinions. It just seems too easy to push people away in the name of taking a stand. After all, aren’t I supposed to be reaching out to unexpected people?
The other side of my brain is saying that every act is political. Even something as simple as picking up a piece of trash, while it may not blurt out who I voted for, is certainly a blatant political action. It doesn’t seem genuine to stick only to tasks which can be generally accepted. After all, aren’t I supposed to be shaking things up?
Really, I am having two content debates: how much of me should go into these acts and these blog entries, and how should politics (my own or otherwise) factor in.
So, here’s my decision. As a part of this blog’s journey, I must to reveal a bit more of myself in both my tasks and my reporting of them, and I have to pick a mix of tasks (some more political than others), keeping in mind my goal of disturbing the hustle- bustle and bringing strangers together.
Well, I guess the first step is to write a real About Me page.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Graffitizing The Mundane

At this point, I have realized that this project will be fluid and I will constantly be redefining it. The other day I decided to make some public art as another way of reaching out. When I was five I was a very well-behaved child. One day though, I had this brand new, 24 color box of Mickey Mouse crayons. I took them outside with me and I made a colorful mural on the patio slates. I was really excited because the colors looked so rich on the blue- gray slate. I don’t remember exactly what I drew, but I remember being extremely proud of it. By the time my mom found my artwork, the wax was melting and swirling together from the summer heat. She was shouting the word “graffiti”.

I scrubbed the wax off, but the punishment didn’t work, and from then on I was fascinated by graffiti. I paid special attention when my family drove through NYC, careful to notice any tag or mural, it was like a game. I did some of my own too, and I was smart about it. At first it was modest and I did it small enough to stay hidden to the casual observer. I would color a few tiles on the kindergarten doll house or I would write a beautiful word in the corner of a room. It was never pointless or spiteful. They were happy images— I wanted to make treasures like the ones I saw sprayed on buildings in the city. When I see beautiful graffiti I think about its meaning before I think about it as vandalism— my goal was only to impart the same feeling. So I marked the floors and walls of places where I had bad experiences so they could become better, but I also marked places of positivity, so I could share it with others.

As a teen, I was excited by the political graffiti I saw around me and I wanted to be a part of that too. It was art that was alive, art that interacted with its environment; one person draws one thing and another draws over it or responds to the message. Graffiti is the collective unconscious. It announces where to get a good blow job; it lets a dishonest cardboard politician speak the truth. It vivifies ugly, generic public places. The ironic thing is that people call it vandalism when it defaces something, but what of it when it enhances beauty or it wakes observers to the truth?

So the graffiti bug never left me. I went to college, I got bolder, and it got worse. I decided I would do some work grander than anything I’d ever done. I bought spray paint. I went out at night, dressed extravagantly, to the worst parts of Albany and painted the town. I had uplifting, thought- provoking messages and images in mind, and I sprayed them.

And I felt bad. I was sloppy because I had never used spray paint before, and because I was scared. The words dripped together. I couldn’t undo it either. I’d created an eyesore instead of a point of interest. Mundane mischief became criminal mischief.

I’m not saying I’ve left my sharpies, stickers, or paint out to dry just yet. I will however think more carefully about planning my designs, because in the few hours before the anti-vandalism truck Defacer- Eraser (Albany's official Anti- vandalism site) comes to clean, I’d want people to think differently about the day because of what they saw.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dana Squared And The Dirty Orb

Over a month ago, while riding my bike to the park, I noticed that one shade in a row of outside lamps was missing. I wondered way too much about what happened to it. Every time I passed the building I looked to see if it had been replaced yet and it hadn’t. The lonely lamp became a landmark for me, slightly irritating, and intriguing in a boring way; the lamp shade had twisted itself onto my obsessive brain.
So, when I saw a dirty white orb floating in the pond at Washington Park I knew exactly what it was. It was just some nameless business building; nobody would even notice if it was replaced. Every time I rode to the park it was still there. Finally, I showed it to my friend Dana on a bike ride, and her enthusiasm about it pushed me to act. I edged down next to the water, but my arm was about eleven inches too short.
“We need… sticks,” I said, but the park wasn’t forthcoming. “A park has no sticks?”
Luckily, my cries of irony were heard. A man fishing nearby shouted, “There’s a fallen tree branch over there!”
Dana and I each grabbed a stick and hooked it into the shade which was heavy with water, and after a ridiculous struggle we succeeded reeling it in. I thanked the fisherman, explained my project, and asked him for a photograph, since he’d become a part of the project too, and he calmly agreed.

So, I poured out the smelly brown water, and attempted to wipe the slime from the outside of the shade, but it was stained a pale brown by what Dana dubbed the Easter Egg Effect. Whatever. After this effort, I didn’t care what it looked like; we were going to bring that damn thing back—somehow.
We spent about ten minutes attempting to rig the shade to Dana’s bike rack, using our cable locks. The shade kept popping itself out and escaping onto the sidewalk, while we laughed hysterically, and a passing couple, who were obviously entertained, stopped to ask us what we were doing.
“Oh we’re just trying to hook this to the bike,” and with my terse explanation they were off on their way.
Oops. The point of the project was to elicit curiosity and they were curious, but in all the excitement I had a brain fart and I’d responded in public default instead.
When we got back to the building and were replacing the shade, a thirty-something walked by with his lab. He stopped for a second and watched us struggle, then continued walking. I called out to him and asked him if he would take our picture. He took it, then asked us what we were doing. When I explained the whole story to him and got his picture, he said, “I was wondering what was going on… my landlord owns this building and I think she’ll get a kick out of this. Oh, and one more thing: is this a pay-it-forward kind of deal?”
I was taken aback because I hadn’t realized that this task was a good deed in someone’s eyes. It felt kind of neutral and or even silly, but certainly not noteworthy in any sense. But here it was: a good deed, and now for the unanticipated question: do I tell this guy that he’s required to pass it on?
“Nope. You don’t have to do anything; you experienced the moment with us and choose not to dismiss it—that’s all this is about.”
And that was the end of the task. My biggest problem was that I should have taken more pictures (if Dana hadn’t of been there I would have had next to none), but I know now for next time. It was incredible how every single person we who helped us had no idea what we were doing, but they agreed to help us prior to an explanation. I was having my doubts, but I feel like this may just be wonderful.