maandag 19 maart 2012

Digger psycholudology reclaims the street


The San Franscisco Diggers (earlier, more in the future) were the anti-hippie radicals working inside Haight-Ashbury. 'Manhood in the Age of Aquarius' is an excellent on-line resource by Tim Hodgdon on the history of the Diggers and in this book we find the following explanation for an event that combines motives from the future Reclaim the Street movement with play tactics from psychogeo inspired street art. 
The Diggers' first happening, on 31 October 1966, attempted to reclaim the street as free territory.

They announced the event in thousands of handbills distributed in advance. The key to deciphering the cryptic text was a direct quotation from McLuhan: "an informed public is its own worst enemy." As "public enemies," the Diggers intended to inform the public by offering it a new frame of reference: in the left-hand column of the handbill they rendered a likeness of a picture frame, "the Digger Square," through which the public could watch a "reality" quite different from that framed by a television screen—a medium that, contrary to Abraham Lincoln's aphorism, "FOOLS ALL OF THE PUBLIC ALL OF THE TIME." Thus, "The Public is Any Fool On The Street," and every fool knew that "PUBLIC STREETS CONVEY MACHINES—ONLY A FOOL WALKS IN TRAFFIC."

But the Diggers saw the state regulation of pedestrians as designed to maximize the flow of traffic for the benefit of commercial interests. To raise consciousness of how deeply those interests restricted individual freedom of movement for the benefit of the few, the Diggers invited the public to play "THE INTERSECTION GAME," which "Any number of fools can play." They drew a diagram, roughly the same size as the Digger Square, of various ways to cross an intersection on foot, and placed it in the right-hand column. They urged people to "BRING A SQUARE"—perhaps a frame, or perhaps a person—"TO DIG THE INTERSECTION GAME" at 5:30 PM, at the intersection of Haight and Masonic Streets.
On the appointed Monday evening, the Diggers set up their yellow, wooden Free Frame of Reference at the corner of Haight and Masonic. With two puppets borrowed from the Mime Troupe (each standing about eight feet high, and requiring the coordinated efforts of two skilled operators located inside), they warmed up a crowd of about five hundred with a skit, "Any Fool on the Street," in which the puppets passed repeatedly through the Frame while carrying on an absurd, boisterous argument about which side constituted the "inside." With the assembled throng now primed for participation, the Diggers proceeded to the next stage of their plan. They invited the assembled crowd to stroll the crosswalks, in disregard of traffic law, creating as many geometrical figures as possible. Traffic came to a standstill.

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