When was the last time you talked to a stranger while waiting in line, or on the subway? For many of us, our default mode in public is staring at a smartphone rather than starting a conversation. San Francisco-based artist Hunter Franks wants to start changing that with a project called the League of Creative Interventionists. Earlier this week, in the group's first intervention, the newly formed League asked random San Franciscans to stop and share the story of their first love.
The group covered a wall with postcards with a simple prompt: "My first love was…" and watched as people started to write in their answers. It’s a little like Candy Chang’s community fill-in-the-blank projects, which have plastered walls with questions about everything from what people want to do before they die to how they’d like to see their neighborhood transform.
Like Chang, Franks was interested in building a conversation that could happen over time as people passed by the wall. But his main goal was giving people a chance to talk to each other in person.
"We’ve become terrible at talking to each other," Franks says. "Especially in larger cities, it’s very easy not to talk. There are so many distractions—not just technology, but you have so many options. This is just a way to get to what I think everyone wants at our core—some kind of human interaction."
The simple format of the postcards gives just enough structure to help break down social barriers, and putting them on a busy street helps easily engage a crowd. "By having it on the sidewalk directly in their vision—by taking it to them, so to speak—you have a way to maybe insert something in somebody’s mind that they just weren’t thinking about before, whether it’s love or creativity or their neighborhood," Franks says.
Franks has worked on several other projects that also aim to bring people together, like the SF Postcard Project, which delivers postcards from residents in marginalized neighborhoods to other parts of the city. Now, through the League, he hopes to inspire others to build more creative interventions in their own cities. Each month, the group will focus on one action.
For the inaugural month, in honor of V-Day, the theme is love. "We all know what it feels like to love something or someone and being able to share that or read that reminds us that we are all much more similar than we are different," he says. "It opens up the potential for two strangers adding their story to the wall to share a smile, a laugh, or their whole story with one another."
"I think people do want to connect and interact, but sometimes they just don’t know how," Franks adds. "Giving them little spontaneous interventions like these can be the first step to starting to build these greater, more in-depth relationships with each other, our community, and our cities."