All of the (completely fictional) stories for the upcoming Portraits of Brief, Casual Encounters show on November 10th were written for and posted in particular Craigslist categories before being given to the artists––giving the Internet the chance to respond to them first.
On November 10th, 2016, the 3rd iteration of the Portraits of Brief Encounters art show and gallery game took some generally practical, occasionally desperate, and wholly anonymous inspiration from the Internet’s favourite classifieds page.
Fifteen short stories were written for and posted in corresponding Craigslist categories by writer and curator Cole Nowicki. Fifteen different artists visually interpreted those stories. Numerous strangers from the Internet also responded to them––with heartfelt engagement, confusion, and pictures of their genitals.
Gallery goers attempted to match each story to its artwork for a chance to win a piece of their choice.
How the game worked:
For a $5 entry you got a storybook containing the written half of the portraits (+ a rare, endangered, limited edition, sensual, #POBEshow bookmark.)
You moved about the room enjoying great art and good beer while matching story to artwork using your wealth of interpretive skill.
Books were then marked with each correct guess equalling $5 off of the asking price of any piece for a potential $75 discount.
Top scorers were entered into a draw with the winner taking home a piece of their choice (that wasn’t already sold)! We paid out the chosen artist in full.
Contributing artists included:
“Now do a silly one.” It was a simple enough request. I’d been silly before. Like the time I took the photo of Prince Charles from mother’s mantle and held it to my face as the children watched The Lion King. Simba was singing ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,’ and I pretended as though I, as Prince Charles, had been the one singing and not the talking lion cub. That was a hoot. That was silly of me.
“Even just a smile this time, Daddy.” the photographer asked again. I thought of that moment but couldn’t think of what face I had made underneath mother’s photograph, only Charles’ stoic jowls on top of mine.
The breath from the children’s sighs, one on either side of me and all of us stomach down as we rested on our elbows at the photographer’s request, moved a piece of lint across the floor. Somewhere I have reserves of silliness stored away, like canned goods in a bomb shelter. I just had to look. I made my eyes wide, as wide as I could until my vision blurred and began to sting. I forced my lips into one another until the top flipped over the bottom like rams fighting for a mate. The children looked at me and then back to the photographer, their own tiny faces horribly contorted with glee. “Sure, that’s great, Daddy. Now on three…”
There was no traditional equipment, like a stick. A stick would have been better. But there wasn’t a stick so we used the arms of our opponents, which obviously held an inherent conflict of interest but thankfully there were no issues. We started by finding a mark on the wall at a height that we all agreed upon, then an opponent would touch the mark with an index or middle finger, arm fully outstretched and as level as possible, which depending on the opponent’s height, would occasionally require them to sustain a squatting position, and then one opponent would try to limbo underneath another opponent’s arm.
There were several different strategies employed by my opponents, who all thought theirs would help them successfully navigate their off-balanced bodies under our arms to victory as they dropped lower and lower. The eventual flaw in all of these strategies was the same, though: they were based solely in the physical. To achieve true physical feats one must control the mental, which I, admittedly, did deftly. Through a simple visualization technique I placed the weight of all of my current and former anxieties onto my opponent’s arm, tricking myself into the belief that if I came into contact with it, I would suddenly be responsible for or subjected to whatever those fears may be.
Being short on rent, running into someone you forgot to text back several weeks ago, whether it made you racist to assume that the one opponent in your limbo contest would have an edge because they were from a Latin American country and then not being sure if limboing was a Latin American thing, which would then further reinforce your potential racism and now general ignorance regarding foreign cultures––these were purely mental worries that I made into a tangible obstacle that I was then markedly more inspired to avoid, handily winning the limbo contest. Try it out for yourself.