I started today off, not wanting to be in my studio. I hadn’t been feeling very productive since I’ve been in Portland, whether in or out of the studio, but I knew that I would rather sit outside and see people go about their day while I worked, than to sit at my computer screen avoiding my other (silk) screen.
As a kid, I was obsessed with fortune telling, palm reading, astrology, and astronomy. I would check out dozens of books from the library and spend afternoons at Waldenbooks and Borders reading about the mysteries and connections between the body, mind, space and time. I remember lazy afternoons, where I’d hang out with my parents who would go around interpreting everyone’s facial features and what they had in store for their futures. I loved all of it. But I kind of pushed it all into the back of my head, writing it off as false sorcery because the practices were a little too outlandish for my friends.
This afternoon, and honestly the last few weeks, I’ve felt like I’ve been lacking something. A human touch. A close connection. Holding hands. I wanted to hold someone’s hand. I wanted to connect with people, beyond a passing smile. I wanted to be as vulnerable as I felt. So I set up a little blanket outside of MECA with some of the work I’ve been letting linger on my desk, and a little chalkboard that read:[ FREE PALM READINGS
Accuracy Not Guaranteed
However, Acceptable Donations:
-Life Stories ]
My intent, while it included wanting to hold a stranger’s hand and talk to them for a few minutes, was also to see if anyone was willing to give themselves to me. As a complete stranger, I wondered who would stop and allow me to touch their hands, which is such an intimate and powerful gesture. Right off the bat, I had three willing customers. I rarely sat idle. In the six hours I conducted this experiment, I had twenty-one visitors, and many who stayed in line for as long as they could, until they had to catch a bus or get somewhere quickly. I was so fortunate to spend this time with these people. The people that I met ranged from students, to business men, to a burlesque dancer, and an aspiring politician. The whole experience was so draining—I was giving myself fully to all of these very real people. I engaged in conversations that went beyond their hands, cried with them, laughed with them. There was some unease when I was asked for love advice and personal soul searching. While I wanted to help and solve these personal problems, I emphasized that I do not tell the future, but read the past. Your hands collect and grow with what life deals you and what fate gave you. I did give some advice, and shared my opinions, talked politics, and hugged people that somehow didn’t end up feeling like strangers. I devoted myself to these people who wanted to talk to me, because I wanted to talk to them so much, too. Some, I spent ten minutes with, others I spent forty. It all depended on the moment, and how long they wanted to be with me.
I was very honest with my palm reading. It was the first time I’ve ever done it. Oddly enough, I was praised for being creepily accurate. I think there is something very real and committed to holding someone’s hand. There is a barrier that is being crossed where you’re allowed feel someone else’s presence and (for me) luckily saw blindly who they were.
Because this, like a lot of my work, was a social experiment, I needed to have some element of identification. In order to document this experience, I took photos of my visitor’s faces, hands if they were shy, and wrote names to connect and remember. With my horrible memory of names and faces, I surprisingly remember almost every one I met today. Here, I chronicle the people I read starting from the very first hand.
Additionally, while I wanted to really badly to record all of my readings in audio, I didn’t. I consciously decided not to because of how personal and fleeting each reading was. The only one I recorded was Ellie Ga’s. I justified it because she also recorded it. Maybe one day I’ll upload the audio.
I often find myself feeling like I’m always left behind. It’s really difficult to connect with someone because we’re all these self-conscious, emotional bodies, and no one wants to sacrifice their ego to reach out to someone else. I felt like for a few minutes, I gave people a more communal loneliness when I held their hand. Somehow, we were all connected.