StrangeLove with Das Bus at the Exploratorium
“I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other just so we can feel something.” - Crash (2004 Film)
A guest referenced this quote to us while we were explaining StrangeLove to him at the Exploratorium last Thursday. It could not have been the more perfect reference. And he was a perfect stranger. The perfect stranger, really.
We wanted to try something different with the photo booth experience, something that engaged people in a way that was a little different and perhaps uncomfortable, with the hope that it might yield some interesting results in the photographs.
Essentially we deployed our normal photo booth operation- $5 per photo session inside the bus for guests attending the Exploratorium After Dark on May 7. However, we also offered free photo sessions to people who had never met before. Yes, this meant we wanted strangers who had only met that night to use the photo booth for free and see what would transpire. We also pared down the prop trunk to six carefully selected items that we thought could engage people in interesting ways - a pair of pink glasses with one eye missing, a presidential wig, a fake hand, a magnifying glass, a rubber pterodactyl, and a vintage oxygen mask.
We certainly did see some interesting results from this “StrangeLove” experiment, only they were not in the photographs. In fact, when we went through the photographs several days later to try and find some fragile moments of awkwardness or subtle hesitation, we couldn’t find them. In fact, we had trouble remembering who were the strangers and who were long time friends/lovers.
Can you tell which group of people had only met moments before the photo session?
The answer is…both! Both groups of people had only met moments before the photo booth.
Of course, there were many moments of awkwardness and subtle hesitation. But most of it happened before the photographs. We also saw a ton of laughter, hugging, excitement, and tenderness after the photo booth sessions.
So what was captured? Anything? Nothing? We could blame it on the alcohol. We could say most people are born knowing how to pose for a camera lens. Or, we could say there is some strange love between all of us that is always present, just waiting for opportunities to come into expression.
So why are we so afraid of each other? We have perpetuated a culture of beliefs focused on “stranger danger” and that if we display our vulnerability we could be violated, exploited, or humiliated. However, statistically, these atrocities actually happen more often between people who already know each other. We would also venture to say that people who hurt others they don’t know do so from a place of alienation, fear, and anger. The antidote? Strange love, of course.
But instead we like to play it safe, understandably, and relate to each other from a distance. A profile picture, a text, a video, a TV show, a gif, a magazine, a tweet, a movie - all beautiful expressions of our human experience that are not “bad” in any way shape or form. However, they are and always will be just that, expressions. A series of safe reflections of life from a distance.
No one is immune to fear, and we know how it’s kept us alive over time. But it can become infectious if not contained in a reasonable way. We can notice that we’re still drawn to each other in ways we don’t understand, and as we continue to look at pictures and videos of people and places we don’t know, consider that it may be because we want to know more of ourselves through our world and through each other. Move towards the feeling!
Sigmund Freud once wrote, “We cannot fall out of this world.”
But we can fall into each other.
View all the photos from the StrangeLove project here.
We'll also just leave this right here...