I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. For just an hour or two, I wanted to be a piece of art, something people would wonder about and maybe stand and interact with for a while. Inspired by Amanda Palmer’s post-college living statue, The Eight-Foot Bride, I wondered what it would be like.
Tonight was the test run. I didn’t put out a collection jar–I just brought a basket of hand-folded paper cranes, each with the same message sharpied across the paper: “Today has never happened, and it doesn’t frighten me” (Taken from a lyric snippet from Bjork’s song “Alarm Call”). I also wore a get-up of sorts, even though I didn’t have much in the way of costuming. A spangled tube top layered over a lacy shirt. Footless stockings converted into long fingerless gloves. Dark shorts and pink tights. Worn out purple Converses. Gold eyeshadow and heavy black eyeliner. Red lipstick. And the icing on the cake, the black and pink wig Mermaidhair gave me after I threw around the idea of getting a wig.
I went downtown tonight (a Saturday night, still busy despite the summer absence of college students) around 11 and parked myself on a busy corner, holding a simple standing pose, the basket held in one arm. I had created only a couple of rules. Rule #1. Don’t talk while being a statue. No matter what. Rule #2. Don’t move unless someone stops and approaches me or talks to me out of curiosity. If they do, I give them a paper crane from my basket, my gift to them.
I was so nervous when I set out. I prepared for the worst: Food thrown at me, getting shoved over, a random drunk grabbing my breast, swearing at me, stealing of cranes instead of accepting one.
None of this happened. In fact, some of the responses I got I could never have prepared for.
One guy thought I was homeless. “Here…” He tucked a dollar bill into my basket and gave me a look of pity. “Can I buy you a slice of pizza or something?” I smiled and shook my head.
Someone else thought I was actually mute, then asked me, “Hablas espanol?”
Some people unwrapped the cranes to read the messages. Others just looked at it, thanked me, then moved on.
A couple people tried to puzzle out what this was all for.
“Are you from Anime Iowa?” Someone asked. Someone else commented on my being from some anime convention. Maybe I need to rethink my getup. I smiled and shook my head.
“Is this a religious thing? Philosphical?” A man with dark curly hair had a whole conversation with me, pressing me with yes or no questions. “Did you go to university here? No? Did you go to college somewhere? Yes? Oh, that’s interesting….is this thing that’s written here some kind of epiphany you had?” I shrug my shoulders and shake my head, still giving him a benevolent smile.
He finally unwraps it and reads the message, then he touches his lower abdomen. “‘Today has never happened, and it doesn’t frighten me.’ Woah. My stomach hurts right here, just because this is so relevant to me. I have to ask you…shoot. I have a text.” He had to run then, but I couldn’t help falling in love with the man who’d been persistent enough to try and puzzle out the meaning of the statue girl handing out cranes for free on the sidewalk.
I got a little thrill out of knowing that I wasn’t doing it for a specific reason. I just had the urge to. I needed to try it, to interact with people in this strange, singular way.
A couple young women loved the messages they unfolded from the cranes. “Did you fold these yourself?” Nod. “Wow. I’ve never seen anything like this. This is so cool.” I gave a smile and a bow of thanks then resumed my position.
It’s an unusually cold night for July in Iowa. I wiggled my toes in my Converses a lot, slowly shifted weight on the balls and heels of my feet, wished my long black wig wasn’t falling in front of my face like Samara from The Ring.
I waited for the last crane to be taken. I had one crane left and three dollars in my basket–pretty good considering that I hadn’t had any kind of donation jar set up–and I waited for the last person to approach.
It was fascinating, being a mannequin and watching feet go by, listening to snippets of conversation that I would never have noticed if I had been rushing off to meet a friend at one of the bars.
The last person to approach was the man with dark curly hair. “Hey, I’m back. I just wanted to ask, is there something I should do for this? Is there–” I handed him the last crane, then I flung off my wig and flailed my basket around. “WOO-HOO! You got the last crane!” I laughed, then ran off, my joints rejoicing at the movement and my adrenaline pumping from the simple thrill of being strange.
I sort of wished I would’ve talked to him afterwards, but instead I went to Deadwood, used my three earned dollars for a cheap pint, and rubbed my sore muscles. Many passers-by probably thought I was a pathetic beggar, or a stupid waste of space. Some who accepted a crane probably threw it away into a trash bin a few blocks later, or crumpled it up and tossed it into the street. I don’t care. That’s not the point. Art isn’t permanent.
I realized, as I was standing there, watching the streetlight change from green to yellow to red to green, that my idea of putting a message on the paper before I folded it into a crane was especially interesting, because the receiver of the crane is confronted with a choice: destroy the crane to read the message, or preserve the crane and remain in the dark about what the paper says? There is no right way to proceed.
I felt so alive–ironic, considering that I forfeited my humanity to be a statue that people talked about as if I were inanimate–and I will definitely be doing it again.