COVID-19 Mask and Poster Installation in Tompkins Square Park
Figuring out the right invitation to participate in this project, along with the logistical challenge of how to safely do a public poster installation were a big part of the process. One person even asked if I was familiar with the Presencing Institute, and certainly that entire Theory U model of personal//collective transformation deeply informs how I think about public prompts. So that was a nice treat.
Even more charming was when someone came up and recognized the illustrations from my mask posters in the neighborhood.
In general, long-time residents, people of colour and families were most likely to participate ... I found the young professional audience not as open to the project, though also they are a population that, at the time, was a lot less present in the neighborhood. Within a few hours, over 100 people came and read or contributed to the poster wall. It was mid-May and the energy in the air to be outside was palpable.
A number of anti-mask folk came up to me and told me about why they didn't want to wear masks; from conspiracy theories to wanting to feel the air on their face. But none of them were willing to write it down and contribute to the poster wall.
The masked portraits were a small success, but I think requires much more time and patience to build out a full series.
Too many prompts and too many actions I think bogged this installation down. I prepared a second round to put up, but at the day of the installation, it felt off. That feeling, that this kind of message wasn't really appropriate anymore, was spot on, as it was the the day of the most intense protests in the East Village after the murder of George Floyd. That night, the neighborhood literally burned. A good lesson in all that is the temporality that social practice projects exist within can really be sensed within the community. That's an attenuation I was able to develop here as a resident over the past few years, so it is not wholly inaccessible knowledge, but it is a knowledge that can only be gained through sustained engagement within the neighborhood.
Below are some select shots from the installation itself.