I found Yoko Ono's Footsteps I in Grapefruit, her book of instructional art, and was blown away by her flirting between lines of public art, self development, conceptual art, performance art and literary art. Footsteps 1 is simultaneously all and none of these. It is beautiful in its concept; it is nothing but concept. Like many of her other pieces, it works to establish a connection not quite tangible. It works on (at least) two levels: one where the viewer simply reads and by the sheer act of reading alone gains pleasure; another is where the viewer actually performs the act, thus making the viewer the performing artist. For this project, I chose the latter.
In a world that is fully built upon consumerist ideals, the shopping mall plays an iconic role. It is not quite (or not simply) the place for economic and social exchange that it is often purported to be; it becomes a place for the self to act as a viewer does in a zoo or a museum. One goes to a zoo to develop a greater understanding of the world by an observation of animals that coexist alongside us; this happens under a philosophy that maintains ecological diversity exists (a pretense we might not be able to hold up for much longer). One goes to a museum to develop a greater understanding of the world by an observation of artefacts that were used by men in the past; this happens under a philosophy that tangible history transcends temporal restraint. One now goes to a mall to develop a greater understanding of the world by an observation of artefacts that are currently produced around the world, artefacts that seem to be conjured out of thin air and bear no trace to their source of origin; this happens under a philosophy that maintains that life in totality is an endless series of product consumption. Zoo, Museum and Mall are all artifices; objects (or animals) exist without context, are put in manufactured environments and hoisted as true. The mall goer does not necessarily buy these artefacts (in fact, most commonly (s)he doesn't); the mall goer performs an act of curation by mentally cataloguing the artefacts (s)he comes across. In any case, "buying" would be irrelevant, personal possession is but an illusion. The mall is now a public space (as zoos and museums once were), a place for families to take their children to on Sundays and buy ice cream. They may then choose to browse through the multitude of artefacts that at once speak about contemporary societal values and offer them identities to purchase. The shopping mall exists to mask the fact that the world is a shopping mall [the way the zoo existed to mask that the world was a zoo? ;) ]
For this piece, I therefore chose a museum of contemporary cultural artefacts (Providence Place Mall) - a conceptual update to the traditional museum (I think) Ono was referring to. I performed as the traditional mall goer (albeit with more consciousness and thought). I had maps pulled up on my iPhone and used these to navigate, dropping pins and taking photos wherever my feet took me. I then uploaded these onto an interactive map that could be easily shared on the internet. I sent the link to the class list, in a way asking them to extend the art piece by their own participation.