What Are You Protesting?

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Yesterday I went up to Denver to listen to Jonathan Letham read from his new book "You Don't Love Me Yet" at the Denver Library. It was fun; he's a good reader and the Q&A afterwards was interesting. I still wish I had asked about his apparent obsession with kangaroos though.

That, however, was the least interesting thing I did yesterday.

After the reading Melanie's friend Stephanie was doing an art project that involved about a dozen or so people, wearing fake hazmat suits and filter/gas masks marching downtown carrying signs with vague slogans on them while Stephanie photographed the reactions of the people nearby.

It was very interesting. Even though the signs all contained vague messaging that was not "against" anything, or really even about anything if you took them as a group, most people assumed it was a protest. Even stranger, many people vocalized their support for our unspecified cause. Others got the references to new-agey apocalypse memes in some of the signs and would say things like "Oh, the Mayan Calendar", as if that explained everything to them. The one sign that mentioned bee die offs got a lot of response with people mentioning the (almost certainly apocryphal) Einstein bee quote.

Overall it was just interesting seeing what meaning people read into an essentially meaningless event. My personal favorite came toward the end when a girl asked me "Why are you wearing the suits"? I lifted my mask enough to reply "For Protection". It was like a light bulb went off in her head. "Oh, duh. Of course, protection" she said to herself as she wandered off. I would really like to know what clicked in her head that made it all suddenly make sense.

Along the way (the whole march was maybe an hour and a half) we picked up five bystanders who suited up, put on masks and joined the march.

Oh, I am the one with the "Prepare for the Worst Hope for the Best" sign. I think my hazmat suit makes me look fat.

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> "Oh, duh. Of course, protection" she said to herself as she wandered off

...anticipating the imminent arrival of tear gas pellets.

What a cool idea! It's kind of the opposite of an exhibition when the actual purpose is to capture people's reaction to it. What's the opposite of an exhibition? (an Inhibition?)

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This page contains a single entry by edgore published on April 23, 2007 1:17 PM.

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