Last Monday I had the interesting experience of doing an informal performance walking around a single city block 100 times (about 20 miles), and of it becoming more publicly visible than I anticipated. It was supposed to be a personal, ephemeral thing where I could immerse myself in something repetitive and reflect on it after, and maybe find out what it was like to interact with strangers in this vulnerable context.
Instead, it turned out that so many people who didn’t see it in person were affected by it. I received messages from urban planners on Facebook about the importance of walking, and I was recognized by strangers days after the event. This wasn’t what I intended, and I could have handled my interviews better, but I do love that this act was almost totally shaped by chance and other people’s actions/interpretations. It was a fun way for me to think about at what point I am making art, how intentional I should be or should not be about it, and how actually nice people in Seattle are on the internet. I decided to just publish my thoughts while it was happening, since my experience is probably the most interesting result of this experiment.
Lap 1: It’s a nice day. There are layers of stickers on everything, so I feel like it’s going to be a challenge to focus on something other than the stickers, street art, and posters. There are a lot of typically Seattle things to notice here: a glass fish, an Elvis statue, some drunk people. I should try to actually talk to some people today, I doubt anyone is actually going to go out of their way to talk to me. Maybe I’ll ask this lady to take a picture of her dog.
Lap 5: I finally get the courage to take a picture of someone’s dog. I see some carpet cleaners (or something like that) getting their supplies out of their van, joking around. They seem cheery for a Monday morning.
Lap 18: I really have to pee, so I stop in the bar to use the bathroom. At this point Wade is with me still, and I can hear him talking to the bartender. “What is she doing?” “She’s walking around the block 100 times. I’m just hanging out until my job interview.” “…Okay.”
Lap 22: There are some people spray painting… something… by a trash can. A couple guys coming and going and joking around. I can’t tell what they are doing but don’t want to stare.
Lap 23: One of the something-painters looks up, gestures to the other. “Is that her?” “Yeah. It’s gotta be.” I confirm that I am the girl with the posters and take their picture. They are maybe painting some audio equipment?
Lap 27: Stopping at Lost Lake for a bunch of potatoes.
Lap 28: I notice some daffodils by the Rancho Bravo. Also that their planters still have stickers with instructions on them. Some new abandoned boots have materialized on the sidewalk across the street. Hairstylists out for probably their second smoke break obviously notice I’ve passed multiple times, don’t confront me though. This makes me feel super weird and vulnerable.
Lap 31: Someone stood the abandoned boots up neatly on the corner. A girl is carrying daffodils.
Lap 32: One of my posters has been moved by someone putting up a ton of concert posters where it was. I thank him for moving it instead of taking it down. He smiles and looks confused.
Lap 33: I see a parking enforcement person giving the carpet cleaners a parking ticket. The daffodils by Rancho Bravo are gone.
Lap 36: The painting guys have some baseball cards now. I really don’t understand what’s going on. They smile at me. I stop in the same bar bathroom. My bladder is so small… I’m glad the bartender is nice.
Lap 41: A guy walks up to me and asks if I’m the girl with the posters. He asks if he can interview me, and I agree but don’t understand why. He explains who he is, and I’m halfway through a video about what I am doing before I realize I’ve totally heard of Dan Savage before. I feel embarrassed for not acting appropriately impressed, also have no idea what to say in a video. Is this random act even meant to be public in this way? I thought I would have some awkward conversations with people who frequent this block; should I have expected this to happen? I also look like shit because it’s raining. Whoever Mr. Savage is with wants to know what kind of shoes I’m wearing. They don’t make them anymore. They disappear into an unmarked door.
Lap 42: I feel compelled to text people I know about what happened. This is legitimately distracting, and I wonder if he will post something that will make people harass me in the street. I am trying to focus on looking at the block again.
Lap 48: One of the trees has a label saying what kind of tree it is.
Lap 50: I see the carpet cleaners back at their van on a break; they are laughing about the parking ticket.
Lap 62: I feel like I should talk to the hairdressers, who are on another smoke break. I could maybe take their picture. I can’t do it because they just look so hip and annoyed with me.
Lap 64: I get some messages with a link to the article with me in it, and I take a break at the coffee shop to watch the video. I don’t really want to get sucked into reading internet comments, but I do, and I respond to some of them. Someone finds me on messenger to tell me they want to walk with me, but they can’t because they live across the country. A very overly excited guy sees my poster and tells me he just love loves what I am doing. He hasn’t seen the video though.
Lap 68: I get some high-fives from random commuters on their way home. A couple in all Patagonia stuff tries to have a philosophical discussion with me. The carpet cleaners have caught on and ask me what lap I am on.
Lap 70: A guy who looks like he might be into The Grateful Dead asks if this is “some kind of neo-Fluxus thing.” I tell him maybe. It was mostly just a way to spend my day off. I think he’s disappointed because he thinks I don’t know what he’s talking about. Dan Savage comes back and asks me to answer questions by email later.
Lap 76: Wade comes back and brings Paul. They help me find new things to photograph, like an awful suit and an umbrella hanging from a power line.
Lap 80: Some people getting off a bus who I also saw in the morning ask me why I am doing this. I get a beer. I am a little overwhelmed by the dozens of people I have had to explain myself to.
Lap 82: I haven’t eaten much, so I kind of really feel my beer. Some people come and find me after seeing the article and walk a couple of blocks with me while waiting for dinner with a friend. I try to make sense while talking to them.
Lap 90: More high fives. It starts to rain.
Lap 97: I get ice cream at Molly Moon’s.
Lap 100: I see some stores closing. No one is talking to me anymore. I go home.