1) “That’s a good parking-spot.” (spoken to a couple stepping out of their parked car)
2) “It’s a good day for a ride.” (spoken to a man biking past)
3) “That looks pretty cozy.” (spoken to a woman pushing a carriage where the kid slept)
4) “That looks like a handy cart.” (spoken to a woman pushing a cart filled with boxes)
5) “That’s a pretty cool toy.” (spoken to a kid holding what looked like a Spiderman figure)
6) “That’s a good-looking dog.” (spoken to a woman walking a dog with silver hairs on its face)
These lines – and the rest making up “Spontaneous Society” – are 99% effective in terms of replacing urban anonymity with something bordering on affection. I’ve tested each line thousands of times over thousands of blocks across multiple cities.
Adults, kids, even non-human animals respond to the lines. Last month, for example, I told a man with a white parakeet on his finger: “That’s a good-looking bird.” The bird smiled then smoothed its feathers. It said “Good evening.”
“Spontaneous Society” has the humble social aim of intensifying pleasure within the flow of daily life. We’re in a tough spot right now – environmentally, economically, you name it. Politicians can’t speak with one another. Uncertainty and fear are pervasive.
One way to address these widespread social problems is by addressing each other with kindness in the mundane world. At least this much is up to us. Sadly the other problems seem out of our hands.
“Spontaneous Society” provides a communication primer: a lesson in humane discourse bridging races, ages, classes; a reminder that the present, barring violence, is to be celebrated before it vanishes into nothingness.
-- Jon Cotner
Jon Cotner will be leading "Spontaneous Society" on June 9, 10, 16 and 17th in different places throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. To give you some idea of what you're in for, read about one of his projects from this past winter.
In February 2011, the day following a blizzard, I took a 90-minute walk around Brooklyn during which every sentence I spoke contained the word “slop.” Here’s a 2-minute mp3 of that walk called “Slop”.
New York City is an infinite zone for walking and talking. On any given day, you can have either sustained or quick conversations – depending on your preference. Many dialogues unfold with people you’ll never see again (in spite of the common farewell “See you later”).
The “slop” walk was designed as an experiment. I’d searched my brain for a word uniting us all, one arousing laughter and frustration, and “slop” is what I came up with. So I hit the slushy sidewalks.
“Slop” ends with a violet-haired hairdresser on cigarette break in front of a slop pile. I said: “It must be nice to smoke a cigarette and contemplate the slop.” Her response: “Exac...you know what? That’s, I thought you were gonna say how beautiful – no, you’re absolutely right. Absolutely.”
I couldn’t have anticipated this response, or any of the others. At bottom “Slop” is a meditation on the city sidewalk’s humorous randomness.
While you're at it, pick up one of Jon Cotner/Andy Fitch's highly praised "Ten Walks/Two Talks" from Ugly Duckling Presse.
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