Spontaneous Society

"Spontaneous Society" by Jon Cotner

Poet Jon Cotner will give each participant two sentences to repeat to strangers on the sidewalk. The sentences are ordinary (“That carriage looks pretty cozy”; “That’s a good-looking dog”; etc.), and focused on ordinary scenarios. These lines shatter – open up – daily reality. Anonymity dissolves. Spontaneous societies arise.

This walk holds 5 people.

Here are some quotes from the press:

"The point of the Spontaneous Society walks, Jon Cotner explained, is to restore a basic social spontaneity that he thinks has been lost (especially since the advent of headphones and cellphones). The 'gentle interventions' we’d be performing would connect us with our fellow New Yorkers, and help us to slow down: 'If we engage daily life in the right way, it’s more than we could ever desire,' he said. 'There is plenty to marvel at and engage with.'" The New Yorker 6/14/11

"How does one say this—that, as I stood there, outside, taking it all in, something big and inarticulate was welling up in me....Beauty, surprise, possibility and communion. The rain, which had been going all night, had now stopped. In front of us were the enormous fountain and traffic circle, the bustling centerpiece of Columbus Circle. Colored lights lit up the interior of the fountain so that the water appeared in glowing, orange arcs....Everything seemed so close and possible, bursting out for us." The Faster Times 6/14/11

"Today, Jon Cotner had given us each two simple lines to repeat to strangers that were intended—through this spontaneous commenting—to generate 'good vibes' with the people around us and also render us more aware of our environment....Members of the tour got smiles, friendly conversation, and even compliments from people they hadn’t approached. People in the group noted how they felt more 'open' to other people after the experience, and how they were surprised by how often their statements were met with smiles or laughter." Bookforum 6/10/11

"If you're shy, that's no excuse, according to Jon Cotner. All the lines have been 'rigorously tested' to 'construct automatic bridges between you and the external world'. We're intrigued and we trust that with Cotner, you come away with something to think about." Flavorpill 6/3/11

Read the mention of "Spontaneous Society" in the NY Times.

Click here to see photos from "Spontaneous Society."