Hi Stephen: I'm writing a blog post below.
Trader Joe's Intervention Results
My project for the Washington Blvd Road Concert was both a kind of art-for-everyone and a kind of intervention of public space. I made small string-bound paper booklets (3x4 inches) titled "Fig" and "Egg" which contained text describing the special properties figs and eggs have that might help you learn to fly. As I wanted these books to appear authorless--and therefore possibly true, or earnestly believed in--I did not put my name on the books. I chose Trader Joe's as my location because of the public foot traffic and because people are accustomed to being asked for money/time/etc. there. I wanted to stop people in a place where they are accustomed to being stopped, but instead of asking them for something, offering to give them something. I stood outside the entrance, holding out books to Trader Joe's customers and asking, "Would you like some information about (figs/eggs)?"
About a quarter to a third of people said no. It made me a little sad how quick people are to reject. I wondered if I would have said no.
Another quarter to a third took the things from my hand without looking.
About half seemed excited; aware that they were receiving an unordinary object.
I think the authorlessness worked; a few people asked where the text came from. To these, I said I wrote it. I hope to have a better response if I do this again, but I'm also hoping that most people who didn't ask also are unsure where the text comes from. I was surprised in general by how much people believed what they were reading. The language is deliberately playful--it almost asks you not to trust it. The information is often entirely made up, but even when it's research-based, it's very filtered through me. But I still heard people saying things like, "Gross! I can't believe wasps tunnel into the fig!" This is true, actually, they do. I think. One person asked if my skewed Adam-and-Eve myth was true. I shrugged and told him I wasn't there.
I realized partway through handing out that Fig is pretty overtly sexual and also uses the word "fuck." As a verb. My first reaction was to stop handing these to people with children, but then I realized that people with children know about fucking. I tried to stop worrying about offending people and hand them whichever booklet I pulled out first.
Some favorite conversations:
me: Would you like some information about the fig?
dude: Which fig?
(I show him booklet)
dude: All figs?!
(dude cracks up, takes booklet).
me: Would you like some information about the egg?
lady with a bunch of kids: Sure. What, are they bad for you now?
me: No, no. This is pro-egg.
me: do you like figs?
person: what's a fig?
me: oh. here. you need this.
At one point, some guys from a local/internet/something radio station came and interviewed me and videotaped me reading outside the Trader Joe's, which drew some onlookers. They called the books "poetry" and me an "artist" which made me feel kind of outed, but also happy to be recognized for a few minutes as not just another possibly insane person. They somehow legitimized what I was doing in a way that was exactly not the point, but they came right at the end which was sort of perfect timing.
I handed out over 60 booklets. I hope these things: 1) That people take them home and read them and are surprised by what's inside. Especially that it has no intentional political agenda/place to send money/actual nutritional information. 2) That people wonder about the origins/intentions/truthfulness of these and have good conversations. 3) That people who read these find their next fig (or egg)-eating experience more interesting in some way. 4) That people's expectations are expanded or shifted, however slightly or briefly.
Yay road concert!!