In the current work I’m exhibiting, Cultivate a Spot, I returned to a spot in my neighbourhood on a regular basis and deposited a variety of food. I was curious to see how people would react to my food offering inside a telephone booth. What drove me to do this? I wanted to do something positive in, and for, my community and I also wanted to know how this gesture could affect people.
I observed people from a distance to gage their reaction. Now, someone I know vaguely, suggested I sit by the telephone booth with my food offerings. This did not appeal to me and I never considered it as a possibility. I think we generally choose our actions according to our personality. Sitting out there, by the telephone booth, I would have felt too exposed. What would I say to people? How would I engage them? It makes me uncomfortable just to think about it.
The question ‘What drove me to do this?’ is one that I answer in many different ways. Here is another way I’ve answered this question: I wanted to connect with my community. That might not make sense because I wasn’t directly interacting with people but if you expand the definition of what it means to connect, you can probably come up with many different ways, direct and indirect, you connect with others or your community.
Now that summer is here, I can explore further this idea of cultivating a spot outside. I am cultivating a spot which is the outside seating of a café only a block and half away from my home. This means showing up regularly—about twice a week—getting a coffee and just sitting there and being open to chatting with whoever is also open to the idea. I felt odd at first because I was conscious of my intention, but now it has started to feel like it’s part of my routine. I am becoming a regular at this spot. And ‘regulars’ recognize each other. I have had some plain conversations and some engaging conversations, but it’s also interesting to recognize people in my neighbourhood because I’ve noticed them at my regular coffee spot.
Having a place you can hang out, where you can go just about anytime, leave anytime, that does not discriminate, and where people will talk to you is what sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls the third place in his book “The Great Good Place.” The first place is home, the second place is work or school, and the third place is a community hangout place. The spot I am cultivating is becoming my third place.
Do you have a third place, a hangout place? It doesn’t have to be a café or a bar but usually, those establishments have the common elements necessary to create a welcoming, convivial atmosphere with no strings attached. How often do you go? How long have you been going there? What do you like about the place that keeps you coming back? If you don’t have such a place, do you feel you need one?
CULTIVATE A SPOT: a small exhibition of documented actions by Laura Bucci
Library Window Gallery
Emily Carr University of Art & Design, Vancouver