Opportunity For Reflection
INDIVIDUAL: New York pedestrian on 14th Street between 3rd and 7th avenues on the weekend of October 18th 2013
GROUP SIZE: 2 to 6
NATURE OF GROUP: IS agents asking New York pedestrians to stick their faces into white image reflection boxes during Art In Odd Places 2013
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Opportunity for Reflection
is agents and Opportunity for Reflection docents Handsome Jim and mISs IS engage a pedestrian.
Opportunity for Reflection was inspired by the visceral and often oppositional identity forming reflections that key numbers, such as 911 or 1%, instill in the culturally and politically diverse population along 14th Street in New York. Over the weekend of October 18th 2013, six IS agents invited pedestrians to take the the opportunity to look into a reflection box and see their face inset into the above-shoulder portraits of variable faceless personas related to a number on the side of each box.
The boxes contained an adult face size oval front opening, an interior back mirror for reflection and two interchangeable mounted images on the inside of the face opening. When a viewer looked into the box they saw a reflection of their own face inset into the image. Pulling one image out via a top tab revealed an image of opposite or contrasting character for a second reflection.
The view inside the boxes. Your face goes here ^
For example, 1% will showed either Romney or an outlaw biker. A contrasting motif, ∞ (infinity) used multiple mirrors and lights to create an infinite cascade of reflections. A core team of agents, m[i]le[s], mISs IS, and Handsome Jim, built the numerically labelled boxes representing the numbers 1 – 69 – 7-11 – 911 –1984 – 1% – ∞.
Final Incidence Report:
Despite the reputation of New Yorkers as being gruff, hurried, and hard as nails with no time for strangers and their peculiarities, the boxes drew people in, sometimes in lines three deep, likes moths to a bright light. In this case, New Yorker’s level of desensitization and lack of a need for personal space encouraged participation. Kids in particular delighted in seeing their face with funny hair styles, a hijab, a uniform, or on money.
Some of our favorite incidents:
Agent Risa corralled in a man who, after initial reluctance, was so moved by seeing his face inset into a rotund hispanic 7-11 clerk that he decided to forgo his lunch and invite his cousin he hasn’t seen in a long time to a movie.
Agent Handsome Jim’s waxed mustache attracted a comparison to Salidor Dalí from a man claiming to be his former chauffeur adding, “That man never gave me a NICKEL!” The disgruntled driver looked into the 1 box before telling Handsome Jim he has the worlds only human skull signed by Dalí.
Agent Manny Green talked for over 30 minutes with two forty-something men about the connections between private prisons and Chicago violence after showing them the stick-up robber in the 7-11 box.
Agent m[i]le[s] got a primer on telepathic communication with Dolphins and the concept of twin-flames from a gold-jeweled German woman after she looked into the 1% box.
Agent mISs IS was cautioned that they are tracking us with infrared, and that the drone program in Pakistan is merely a harbinger of what’s going to happen domestically by a short white American lady in a hijab, pajama pants, and flip-flops who had just looked in the 911 box.
Agent Weiss counseled several harried New Yorkers ranging in age from six to ninety through a meditation exercise counting the lights in the ∞ box.
A sketchy looking underweight 20 something girl looked in the 7-11 box and said, “oh – that’s me. I work at 7-11.” Pulling the clerk card out, agent m[i]le[s] asked “Well then, have you ever seen this?” looking back in at the gun in her face from the robber, she calmly withdrew from the box and non-chalantly said, “Oh yea, we keep a $20 out of the register just for them.” She grabbed every info card, a sticker, and a balloon from the give away box.
A man with curly gray hair and flamboyant clothes including a silk stars and bars shirt, a female condom worn as a necklace, and a yarmulke decorated with puff paint cam and found us all three days, leaving with, “You’re going to have beautiful children”
A serious looking man in a dirty t-shirt and cap approached agent m[i]e[s] wanting to talk about Sociometry. A psychiatrist, the man had trained with the founder of Sociometry Jacob Levy Moreno and had participated in mass Psycho Drama exercises in the early 1970’s. While he seemed a touch disappointed to find out we were engaging in Guerilla Sociometry which is similar in focus but doesn’t conform to the rigorous standards of math or science, he did agree that we were engaging in a core principle of Psycho Drama – acting out your problems in front of large groups.
It was our desire to use this opportunity to introduce the relative nature of identity and memory as it relates to numbers. The Opportunity for Reflection was intended to let viewers experience their face within the bodies of people who embodied both sides of a dialog. Ideally, the experience provided an interesting Opportunity for Reflection that caused further thought about the relative nature of identity and memory as triggered by numbers.
Despite a word of caution about performing on the streets of New York from the Art In Odd Places staff, we found the pedestrians along 14th St. to be the most engaged, chatty, and unafraid of odd art patrons we’ve come across in two decades of guerilla public art pranks. When we were packing up the boxes to ship from Denver we were joking about the one person who we were going to talk to. Instead, much to our surprise and delight, we lost track of the interactions within the first hour.
One not-so-surprising in-hind-sight observations: for every single retired art history or sociology professor (or Salvador Dalí chauffeur) well versed in art issues or current affairs and wanting to have a “serious” discourse we encountered dozens of fellow odd-balls who recognized us as a captive audience for unloading their own crazy theories and tall tales.
mISs IS mISsion accomplished!
ThIS report documents Institute of Sociometry’s contribution to Art In Odd Places 2013 : Number