on being affiliated and taking credit

IMG_5696

I’m having a really tough time with boundaries.

Let’s start a little further back.  Have you ever read the book Stargirl?  The main character is a high school-aged boy named Leo, who finds himself attracted to the quirky new girl, Stargirl Carraway, who is caring, thoughtful, unconventional, selfless, and nonconformist in a way that inspires a great deal of ambivalence from her peers – first intrigue, then admiration, then hate, then… well, I’ll let you read the book.  Stargirl is a complex character, and deciphering a core message or moral from the book is less straightforward than it seems, in my experience.  Stargirl devotes herself with reckless abandon to projects that she hopes will make people happy, often while intentionally disassociating herself from the projects so that they can be anonymous gifts that imply no desire for recognition.  She was a huge inspiration to me when I first read the book, in high school, because of her courageous blend of humility and generosity.

Now, though, I’m finding it hard to figure out how to follow her lead – and to what extent I should, or want to.  I deeply admire her character’s generosity and thoughtfulness, and long to emulate these qualities in my own life.  I also share her indifference to the spotlight (in fact, I may be more allergic to it than she is; she seems perfectly at ease being the centre of attention, because, at bottom, she just doesn’t recognize the weight of others’ gazes).  Lately, though, I am feeling the push to own my acts and projects in a way that I’m not entirely sure how to handle, and in ways that I’m not sure her character offers me insight in terms of how to mediate.

I love the community projects I’ve undertaken this year (and previously, more silently).  They make me feel connected to this city that I love so much, and it really warms my heart when people engage with my installations and report that it made their day.  Finding a way to spread that feeling of being connected to others was part of the idea behind including hashtags on the posters; it was all about giving people a way to see that this was bigger than each individual experience – that my good day is in kinship with her good day, and so on, and to allow everyone to see just how far the impact from a small box of felt flowers could extend.

So why blog about it?  Do I feel a desire/need/impetus to link myself personally to these projects?
And if so, why?

That’s the question with which I’ve been wrestling for months.  On the one hand, blogging serves as a helpful archive, and reinforces the aforementioned sense of connectedness by linking present projects to a whole past history of similar undertakings, and to additional photos for those who maybe only caught the end of an installation but would like to see more.  Blogging also offers not-insignificant practical benefits; it’s expensive to undertake these projects, and, as an underemployed philosopher, funding is a source of constant constraint when it comes to bringing ideas to fruition.  Publicizing these projects gives them greater attention, and also lends them (and me!) credibility in case, down the road, I need or decide to ask for support.  In those ways, I think that writing about my work is beneficial to my overall project.

On the other hand, it’s hard to balance desire for promotion with desire for self-promotion, and I find myself, increasingly frequently, coming up against that problematic relationship.  I’ve recently been in discussion with an organization about the idea of hosting a small installation on their front lawn, and the whole experience has brought a few things into sharp relief – namely, the extent to which I want to be affiliated with them, and them with me.  My intention was to set up a project that would be largely self-regulating (as all my projects, so far, have been), but through our discussions I feel as though I have been increasingly wrapped up in the execution as an active director of the experience – a position with which I am largely uncomfortable.  Fundamentally, I want these projects to be about people interacting with something (art/installation/random act of cheer/whatever you call it) – with me as the occassion, not the mediator, of the experience.  Ideally, I’d like to remain the anonymous author, but that seems largely impossible now, in part because doing so is it odds with at least one of the aforementioned practical considerations.  Remaining anonymous is also impossible when an installation requires a person’s direction in order for it to be executed (which is the case for a mission currently in-the-works).

How do I keep it “all about the art”?  How do I continue to promote the work without promoting myself?  Perhaps the answer lies in Stargirl, after all – specifically in her complete indifference – not distaste – for the spotlight.  Maybe the thing I need to do is not avoid the spotlight, but care less about it – care less about its meaning.

Maybe I need to stop overthinking this, and just keep doing things.  Stop asking for permission and just build.  I’m curious about your thoughts, though.  How do you see/experience/balance the relationship between act and affiliation, between project and producer?  (What would Stargirl do?)

Advertisements

Dear Jehangir

Dear Jehangir,

You have a pretty fantastic set of friends – you know that, right?  Today would have been your 29th birthday, and to mark the occasion, and celebrate it in the most appropriate and fitting way, your friends have created an event to spread your warmth and compassion as widely as possible.  As of writing this, there were 259 people attending this event (and 1300 people invited!).  Two hundred and fifty-nine people who have committed to do something lovely for a stranger today.  Two hunded and fifty-nine people who are thinking about you.  Two hundred and fifty-nine people who love you and want to honour your life.  Two hundred and fifty-nine missionaries of compassion and generosity. Two hundred and fifty-nine of your friends and disciples in caring.

jehangir

I think you’ve discovered the secret to immortality, my friend :)

 

April Fool’s Day

April Fool’s Day is a week away, which gives you seven days to prepare!  I’ve never been a big fan of pranks – maybe because my parents were always smart enough to thwart our efforts to plastic wrap their toilet, etc. – but I love the idea of kind-spirited fun that surprises and delights rather than offends.

I’m still not sure what tricks, if any, I’ll be playing this year, but if you’re looking for some inspiration for your own shenanigans, check out the links below:

aprilfools1

aprilfools2

aprilfools3

You’ve been flocked! (by The House that Lars Built)
April Fool’s Mini Lunch (from Oh Happy Day)
Balloon Bunch (from Katie Sokoler)

#TOinBloom

It’s been a long, difficult winter here in Toronto, and spring has seemed endlessly far away for too long.  We were teased with a gorgeous day, a few weeks ago, but after only a few (too few!) glorious hours of sweater weather the cold returned with a vengeance.  This year, the spring equinox – March 20th –  seemed like a holiday worth marking.  It was the date on which we could legitimately start thinking about warmer weather.

The cogs in my heart started turning when I stumbled upon these felt placemats at my local dollar store, and figured I could use them to build a reminder of the beauty and colour that lies on the horizon…

IMG_5518

Continue reading

#HeartTree

Late last night, a band of happy vandals made their way down College St., in downtown Toronto…

IMG_4907

IMG_4912

IMG_4908

Almost 300 small felt hearts were hung on trees, from Euclid Ave. to Bathurst., in celebration of St. Valentine’s day

IMG_4924

The light fluffy snowfall the next morning made them feel extra magical…

IMG_4946

(The signs read: “Valentine’s Day needn’t be only for lovers – reclaim the day!  Take a heart and show your appreciation for friends, co-workers, transit operators, baristas, the person who delivers those big water bottles for your office’s cooler… anyone and everyone who brightens your day!  Who do you appreciate? #hearttree“)

IMG_5137

The hope was that they could serve as a reminder that February 14th is all about love – not just romantic love, but all kinds of love for all kinds of people!

IMG_4932

There were a few smaller trees on College east of Bathurst…

IMG_4930

…and one big tree on the north-west corner of Bathurst and College must have had at least 50 hearts…

IMG_4954

IMG_4983

It was really lovely to witness so many people interacting with the display (that was the point, after all!)

IMG_4988

IMG_4992

IMG_5018

(these kids were so funny; one of the guys took one, and his friends chastised him until he pointed out that the sign said to take them…)

IMG_5016

(…and then they each grabbed their own!)

IMG_5021

IMG_5050

IMG_5062

IMG_4962

It honestly made my day to see people take interest in this odd little installation…

IMG_5090

IMG_5091

…and I hope it made theirs too!

UPDATE:

Sadly, the hearts that were sent to Ottawa and Kingston did not make it in time, but they did make it as far as Whitby, where my terrific, wonderful friends Bri and Stephen put together a few installations for our friends to the east!

20140214_070441

20140214_070334

20140214_070900

20140214_071017

Valentine’s Day DIYs

Valentine’s day must be one of the most maligned holidays, but I think that its negative reputation is largely undeserved.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hussle of life, and therefore to overlook, forget, or neglect to recognize the people and occasions that make our lives rich and meaningful.  I like to think of holidays as a reminder to do so – a reminder to take the time to show our appreciation for the people who make our lives special, just by being in them.  Doing so needn’t involve much (or any!) expense – just time and thoughtfulness.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite Valentine’s Day DIYs to get you in the mood for celebrating all things lovely (V-Day is right around the corner, after all!). What I love about these projects is that they’re such simple ways to make a big impact, and they emphasize thoughtfulness over expense. Whether it’s the love you have for terrific friends, family, or partners, taking the time to share and show your warm feelings with the important people in your life is what this holiday is all about!

Happy weekend!

VDAY - Lars - flower wreath

VDAY - twig & thistle - apple

VDAY - purl bee

VDAY - OhHappyDay - tree hearts

VDAY - sarah m style

VDAY - heart attack

VDAY - moorea seal

VDAY - OhHappyDay - closet hearts

Links:

Valentine’s Day wreath (from The House that Lars Built)
Fruit stickers (from Twig & Thistle)
Felt candy hearts (from The Purl Bee)
Tree heart installation (from Oh Happy Day)
Wild About You valentines (from Sarah M Style)
Heart Attack! (from The House that Lars Built) (or this one for friends who live further away…)
Heart reminders (from Moorea Seal)
Heart balloons in a closet (from Oh Happy Day)