Friends and fellow artists Jordan Tynes and Taylor McVay form the Howard Art Project in Dorchester, MA planted the seeds of intervention. In solidarity with their Massachusetts series of Black Friday interventions. I decided to conduct my own HSS directional sound intervention at an outlet mall in Jackson, NJ. In contrast to the spirit that sharing a meal with loved ones can muster (at least in theory) Black Friday has always struck me as an anomaly and aberration from that sentiment. Capitalism Fever. Perfect testing ground for an audio intervention.
In the weeks leading up to Black Friday — I found myself re-reading This Is Water by David Foster Wallace. If you haven’t read it you might want to. The passage which is actually talking about refers to shopping at a supermarket: “And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to manoeuvre your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college. But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death.”
“Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death” is the source audio for this intervention that personifies my feelings about Black Friday.
Reactions from children — who seem to be the most aware in shopping environments were most interesting. You could see the process of listening illustrated on the way they held their heads and the follow up questions they would ask their guardians. Occasionally a random adult (usually female) would be look over her shoulder or glance around ceiling corridor of the outside mall with a look of confused contemplation. In this sense I consider the intervention successful if even only for a moment a shopping somnambulist is roused from her death like trance.
Ricocheting sound in the echoey corridor at the Jackson Outlet Mall in NJ during a Black Friday HSS intervention …