After a few months of fixing up old typewriters and tapping out lines, I came up with a new question: What kind of responses would you get if you set up a typewriter station that presented city dwellers with unexpected, deeply personal questions? I began making a list of potential questions (“What Tetris piece are you? What is something you believe even though you know better?”) while pitching the project to friends in the local arts community. In April, curator Israel Garcia accepted the proposal as part of a group show at Paragraph Gallery —an ideal location because of its placement next to a downtown bus stop. Israel also set me up with Adriane Herman, an artist whose photography/storytelling installation about “letting go” provided the theme for the questions that accompanied the writing stands. Participants were encouraged to answer as many questions as they liked, not overthink their responses, and to just hit the space bar if they messed up (as nothing facilitates letting go quite like moving on). Questions included:
Who are you? (try to answer without using descriptors of age, gender, race, height/weight, etc).
How would you sum up your personal philosophy in a hashtag?
What would you like to see change in this city?
What do we need to let go of as a community in order to move forward?
What is something you would like to leave behind? What is holding you back?
What do you want to make room for?
During the six weekends the gallery was open, I’d estimate that nearly 100 people used the indoor and outdoor typewriter stands. Because it had rained frequently, we hosted an indoor type-in on the summer solstice, offering sweet tea and homemade scones. Someone suggested that we take pictures of the people typing in order to illustrate the diversity of the participants, which included businessmen, bus commuters, students, transients and tourists. But I like the way the words themselves present a semi-anonymous tapestry of identities, opinions, ideas and silliness. While any good exhibit will naturally inspire reflection and responses from its visitors, this one worked best by literally handing them the keys. — Lucas Wetzel, Aug. 2015