research * the future * culture

Post rec: AFP and unexpected art

Amanda Palmer has a great post up regarding the discovery of art in everyday existence.

i used to think that being a street performer (i was a living statue for five years….i should really write a book about it) was the ultimate act of art, because NOBODY would ever recognize my art in any way that was acceptable, nobody would ever applaud, no reviewers would ever come, no critics would ever ponder whether i had a good or bad performance…. and if anybody wanted to take anything away, if they were brave enough, they did. and nobody told them to, nobody told them what to feel, nobody told them anything. it just WAS.

I mention this because, as chance would have it, I encountered an impromptu performance this afternoon after reading the post. A boy with long black hair and ripped jeans took out his guitar and picked his way through part of my bus ride home. I watched him unzip the case and cradle the instrument across his knees, Pietà-style, before going to work. His fingering was good — nimble and smooth but well-controlled, disciplined. He harmonized, somehow, with the guy talking job losses on his tucked-away cellphone and the two girls assuring themselves whether they’d be allowed into a party. The relationship between he and his instrument became the golden thread of love and dedication in the midst of all that uncertainty and doubt. Surrounded by people busy wondering if they were good enough, he was already working on getting himself there.

Then he plugged in his portable amp. I hunched over in my seat watching him fiddle with knobs and cords, knowing I’d have only a block before I would have to leave and that when I was gone, my time with this person would be over and I wouldn’t hear any more. Faster, faster, I silently urged. More, more. He played something that sounded like Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“Thank you,” I whispered as I left. I was the only one who had spoken to him the whole trip.

He turned to me. For the first time, I saw his whole face. Young, dark, composed. Real nonchalance, not feigned. “Anytime,” he said, like we were already friends.

  • Madeline Ashby… a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity,, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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    Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (2nd Edition)Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways: To Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients into Your CookingGluten-Free Girl and the ChefPeople Crossing Borders: An Analysis of U.S. Border Protection PoliciesHalf the Day Is NightThe Magicians

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