Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On ubiquitous banana men, palm readers, and maps

If you live in Chicago, you have seen the banana dude.

This one ironically not in Chicago but Brooklyn.
Image courtesy of Left Handed Wave, 2011.

For I CAN DO THAT, the prolific young street artist known as Left Handed Wave will provide a large-scale black-and-white banana man for show-goers to fill in / add to / go nuts with. After the collaborative effort is complete, he'll paste it up on the street. It will be grand. Check out this video of LHW in action:

(More videos here and here.)

Sadly, I’m allergic to bananas. And kiwis. And fabric softener. But rest assured that I’ll never be allergic to awesome art.

Thank you to another I CAN DO THAT artist, Mister Vibe, for giving me a palm reading. Apparently I’m a “Fire Hand.” Note that I’m also a Leo and was born in the Year of the Fire Rabbit. So that’s three fire signs. And I’m an only child. Basically, I was predestined to be a troublemaker / be obnoxious.

Speaking of which… gather ‘round and allow me to tell you about an old, still-untitled personal project I did a few years ago when I was in New York: From Fall 2008 through Spring 2009, I obsessively created hundreds of pre-stamped, self-addressed postcards, omitting my name. Written on each postcard was the prompt, “Tell me one thing you dream of doing before you die. Use this card as your canvas,” as well as a code on the bottom corner. I then left these postcards in public spaces all over Manhattan, using the codes to record where I placed each one. When the postcards returned to me, I was able to tell where each had been found, and I gradually pieced together a map of the city from all these people’s dreams.

It was an exploration in breaking down barriers between the private and the public (by its nature, letter-writing is an intimate act—although with postcards, anyone who intercepts your card can read what you wrote—and here were these people sharing their deepest fears and hopes with me, a nameless, faceless stranger, perhaps emboldened by the safety net of anonymity, or motivated by that very human desire to connect, to know that someone, anyone, knows about you), between artist and audience (I may have been the originator of the project, but was I the artist or were these people the artists, or both?), and between geographical boundaries (did the dreams of Upper Eastsiders differ that greatly from those in Alphabet City? on Wall Street? would the fine upstanding citizens there even pay attention to a handmade postcard taped up onto a street light? etc. etc.).

I’ve mentioned this project before, but learning about the new “Before I Die” installation in Pilsen is what prompted me to finally scan the postcards and try to share them online. For now, you can view them (uploaded in no particular order) here on Flickr (some replies NSFW).

Lastly, happy vernal equinox! Although it’s been much more like summer here in the Chi. If I were a beach kind of person, I’d totally be at the beach right now. (#vampireproblems / we skipped leather jacket weather / no but seriously when will I be able to wear my blazers and leather jacket)


  1. Jenny, I looked at the postcards on Flicker. The idea is brilliant,the replies on the postcards are fascinating, and I really hope you finish this - I’d love to see the finished map one day.

    1. Thank you so much, Debbie! In addition to finishing the map, I'm considering turning the project into a book, as well as launching a website that encourages others to continue the project in other cities.


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