The birth of my child was a joyous occasion and filled me with an overwhelming creative impulse that desperately needed an outlet. Being naturally predisposed to a distrust of artists and their lackeys (promoters, producers, gallery owners, etc.) and outright contempt for the paradigm of art as a commodity (combined with my fear of failure and rejection), I set out to create a work of art that would appear for a brief time in the public sphere, anonymous, unannounced, free of expectation, and open to the world.

I entered into this realm with no long term plan or vision, I just needed to create something and share it with strangers, friends or whoever happened to be passing by my little corner of the world. So I picked a random spot, a telephone pole on the corner of Salsbury and Parker in East Vancouver, (I lived in a house on this corner from 1997-1999). It has been 13 years now, I try to put up at least one work every year, sometimes I manage two. They only last for a few days at most, I put them up before dawn and take them down late at night when their store of goods has been exhausted. It took a few years before I settled on a theme; the works always contain gifts of some sort, an opportunity for exchange, or just a random trinket for someone to take away.

May 1998, the first one didn’t last long . I had worked at it for days prior to its presentation. Painstakingly drawing and painting, I even included some copper work in its final form. To describe it would be difficult; inside a small metal box, there was a Smurf with a chainsaw, against a background depicting a clearcut forest, stumps and logs scattered around the landscape. I believe I featured the words, “Coming Soon” as the banner to my creation. It was up for less than 4 hours. A person with no respect for public art?, or perhaps a zealous patron of the arts? Someone pilfered it, though I never discovered whom. I preferred to imagine that someone was so taken by it that they had to have it at any cost, even if it meant crossing the line into criminal activity. This thought made me very happy, and encouraged me to do more.

Please have a look at the works through the years, and if you or someone you know has had an experience with them, please comment. Tell me your story, what you found, what you left, how it affected your day or your life.

Friday, 21 October 2011

October 1999

This was the first offering that had a very strong emotional connection tied to it.  The first of many “magical” occurrences that the offerings would manifest from time to time. 

The initial construction of this offering box took place a year prior to its presentation, when I toiled in Port Moody as a coppersmith.  I made it for my partner, who at the time was an art student, (I made two actually). She used them as part of an installation she did for school.  Sadly in September 1999, our four year relationship, that had produced one child, ended.  Depressed, lonely and in separation counseling with my former partner, I was in dire need of love and support.  We no longer lived in the house on the corner of Parker and Salsbury, the offerings were not on my mind.

One afternoon, as I wandered despondently around Commercial Drive, I decided to stroll past the telephone pole on the corner where I had hung all of the offerings.  There, tacked onto the faded creosote pole, was a small, faded piece of paper with a note written on it, it read, “Hey, where is our fall box”?  I was dumbfounded, someone cared, someone was touched by the offerings enough to post a random notice in the hope that the maker might notice!  In that moment, I was cured! Literally! That one small act had washed the despair and sorrow from my heart.  I recall a session with my separation counselor the following day, I was ecstatic, I related the tale to her and proclaimed that her services were no longer needed.

Who was this stranger with the note that quite literally changed my life?  Surely they had no idea that their simple note could have had such a profound influence on someone.  The light went on for me.  Perhaps my offering boxes could have the same impact on someone, make their day, or change their life, it was possible.  We can commune with complete strangers, people you will never know or meet, we can exchange love and humble gifts with each other in a completely anonymous, non-commodified setting.  No expectations, no desire, what joy!

The following day, I feverishly set about creating my next offering.  I liberated the copper box from my ex, stenciled the words, “Offerings For Autumn”, upon it and hung it on the telephone pole.

Notice that the box has two doors on it, and inside there are two separate levels.  Inside each I placed the detritus of autumn: twigs, fallen leaves, faded flowers, various aged trinkets and gee-gaws that I had collected in my travels.  I also placed some incense and matches inside so that the curious could pause and make use of the ancient source of fire and scent to encourage reflection and the opportunity to make a blessing.

People responded, notable among the treasures left behind was a most mysterious and wonderful note,  from a kind and generous stranger(s).  They took the time to extend a heartfelt invitation to me (or whoever may have come across the note), to share in their community, to engage with complete strangers in music and costume.  I was, however, unable to attend the “birthday party of bobofet”, and I never did come into contact with 
the authors of that note (as far as I know).

Box installed

Party Invitation

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