How: Hold signs asking people to smile for you
When: March, 2011 Where: F Train, Dumbo Area
I was recently introduced to that art sign on subway station at 14th st saying “Please don’t smile at strangers”. The reason behind that, I guess, is to instruct tourists that NYC may not be what we call a very warm place and be a conceptual art piece. As conceptual as it can be, my reaction to that is exactly the opposite: try to make this place that we chose to live as nice as possible.
It reminded me one of my first interventions where I went to the subways and would just smile at people instead of using my phone. But now I wanted to make it a little bit more obvious. I printed two signs: “Would you smile for me” and “Have a great day”. I would hold the first one and try to make eye contact with someone, and if another person smiled back to me, I would show the second one. I tried this experiment twice. At the first one I was by myself, it was afternoon and I didn’t get as many smiles as I wanted.
But then I tried a second time with some friends and just the act of holding those signs seamed so amusing to us that we started laughing. I’m inclined to believe that laugh is indeed contagious, because then people started to look at us and smile much more spontaneously. We started to compete who would receive more “smiles” and Katie won!