So I’ve started a new exercise regimen: I run around Lady Bird Lake and I’m not allowed to stop until I've seen five pianos. Yesterday, it took me 2.5 miles. You have no idea how happy I was to hear that fifth piano as I came huffing and puffing around the bend. The girl playing the piano was lousy and the melody was completely unrecognizable, but it was still the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.
Google has since informed me that these random “street pianos” are part of a touring art exhibit. Previous cities include London, Sydney, Barcelona, São Paulo, and New York. The artist, Luke Jerram, wanted to encourage city-dwellers to interact with each other. He views each piano “as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space.” As someone who lives in an urban environment and still manages to feel isolated most of the time, the idea really strikes a chord with me (ha, get it?).
The pianos reminded me of a similar undertaking called "The Red Swing Project." In 2007, a guy named Andrew staged an “urban intervention” in Austin and started hanging red swings in public places under the cover of night. He went on to hang swings all over the world. I saw one of his red swings near my apartment building a few months ago, but someone cut it down. Apparently that happens a lot. Americans tend to consider it vandalism.
Anyway, I’m feeling so inspired that I’ve decided to start my own [insert random object] project. My reasons for doing so are as follows:
1.) I’ll finally be able to refer to myself as an “artist.” A creative individual on a heroic quest to bring beauty to the world. My life will take on a whole new meaning! I already embody all of the artist stereotypes: I’m tortured, depressed, lonely, and I look fabulous in black. All I’m missing is the art (unless you count my highly original paintings of trademarked beer logos.)
2.) The “social experiment” aspect of the project fascinates me. In college, I minored in Social Psychology for an entire semester after reading about the Milgram experiment. I think I would derive much pleasure from hiding behind the bushes and watching people’s reactions to my cleverly placed [insert random object].
3.) I like the idea of executing my “art” in secret in the middle of the night. Really, I’m drawn to any occupation that involves a flashlight and a ski mask. I’ve always been a night person, and I’m surprisingly stealthy.
Now I just need to select the perfect random object. Something that will inspire action. Something that you don’t see every day. Something that will bring joy and happiness to the people who are lucky enough to pass by. Something that people won’t be too inclined to steal.
My first thought was hula hoops, a favorite childhood pastime of mine. (I once took second place in a prestigious hula hooping contest at the local mall. A few of us – the remarkably talented ones – lasted so long that the judges were forced to bring in extra small hula hoops in order to make it more challenging.) I haven’t seen anyone hula hoop in years, so I was surprised to learn that there is already a very active hula hooping scene in Austin. In fact, there is an actual hula hooping event being held tonight only a few blocks away from me. That, of course, means that I can't use hula hoops. My art must be avant-garde! It can't appear as though I'm jumping on the bandwagon.
Then I had a thought... My goal as an artist is to bring joy to the public. Installing pianos on a running path may be avant-garde, but as an avid runner (well, recently avid), I can tell you that the last thing I want to do when I'm sweaty and exhausted is play the piano. That's why I'm starting the Urban Slip 'n Slide Project. Imagine coming around the corner, red-faced and panting in the brutal Texas heat, and right there in front of you is an impromptu water-slide! Now that's great art.
Warning: Slip ‘n Slides have been linked to serious injuries. The artist is not liable for any injuries that may occur as a result of her artwork.