Culture.

From the zine How to have an amazingly adventurous life for zero dollars a day.

Culture doesn’t just exist in art galleries and theatres.  It is something we participate in and create for ourselves in everything we do.

We can choose to live in an individualistic culture of consumerism and passivity, or we can create a culture that is diverse, expressive and convivial.

Big business with products to sell doesn’t have exclusive rights to express itself in the public realm.  Express yourself with paint, musical instruments, your voice, chalk, flowers, free food, bright clothes, gardens and anything you can think of to make the world more beautiful.  Create opportunities for people to interact with each other and the space they are in, and have fun.

Here’s a few of my ideas for going about this.  Come up with some of your own.

  • Point out rainbows, sunsets, the rising moon and interesting clouds to strangers.
  • Give people flowers.
  • Sing, dance, and play on the streets.
  • Draw with chalk on roads, paths and walls.
  • Stick up your artwork or poetry on walls in toilet cubicles.
  • Leave a book you’ve enjoyed on a park bench for someone else to read.
  • Rearrange items on the street for hard rubbish into something more creative.  Maybe an outdoor lounge room, or a magical furniture monster.
  • Busk, and have a few extra percussion instruments available for people to join you.
  • Decorate street trees.
  • Plant trees.
  • Create gardens.
  • Paint murals on bus shelters and stobie poles.
  • Throw seed bombs.  Make a ball of clay, compost and seeds and throw it onto an empty block to grow flowers, vegetables or trees.
  • Hold a picnic or formal dinner in an unlikely place, such as a shopping mall, railway station, or median strip.
  • Use the powerpoints on suburban trains to do something interesting.  Maybe take a toaster and kettle and offer breakfast to commuters.
  • Make boring things fun.
  • Install artworks in public places.
  • Invite people to join you in these activities.

A friend and I once had the idea to get on a train dressed as flight attendants.  We would show everyone the exits, and how to put on a life-jacket, and then walk along the aisle with a trolley full of dumpster fruit and offer everyone breakfast.  We never actually did it.

Intersection Repair in Portland, Oregon involves neighbourhoods taking responsibility for an intersection and converting it into a public square, through activities such as painting murals on the road; installing noticeboards, book exchanges, tea and coffee stations, and sculptures; holding events, shared meals and free markets.

Reclaim The Streets is a worldwide movement of closing a busy street to cars for a day to create a space for people to interact on the street without disruption by cars, and create community ownership of public space.  Anyone can do it, just get together with a few friends, set a day and a place, get some food, music and games, put the word out, and close the street to cars, which opens it up to people.

Once I was on a train when a couple of teenage boys got on and announced, “hello everyone it’s Smiley Day today, we’ve got a smiley stamp for you all.”  They walked through the train with an ink stamp each and offered to stamp everyone’s hand with a smiley, while wishing us all an enjoyable Smiley Day.  I thought this was a really lovely and creative thing to do, and would love to make things like this to happen more often.

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