Previz #65 – Close Encounters

Image from Michael Mundy's "An Afternoon With..." Mikael Kennedy

NEW YORK – CHICAGO – SAN FRANCISCO – ACROSS ANY TABLE, 25 April — If art and life are tapestries, richly woven matrices of people and experiences, then from what far-flung sources come the fibers of these weavings? Is a monochrome better than a cacophony? Is the richness of our art, our lives, our culture, derived from our ability to find a way to weave complex, diverse people and experiences, if not exactly into unity or harmony, then into some sort of dynamic balance or symbiosis?

Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind was inspired by ufologist J. Allen Hynek’s 1972 book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry, in which he classified encounters:
Close Encounters of the First Kind: Visual Sighting
Close Encounters of the Second Kind: Visual sightings plus physical effects on animate and inanimate objects
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Sightings of “occupants”

Hynek was, of course, talking about Close Encounters with aliens or “animate beings”. Yet in our human urge to weave richer tapestries of life through new encounters, we often do engage in myriad processes of meeting new mortal, yet animate, beings. Parties, gatherings, meetings, conferences, the list is endless.

The start of megan gebhart's journey, Brett Rosenblatt, the almost end of it, his mom, Elaine Rosenblatt, and behind them, Anish Kapoor's stainless steel "Cloud Gate" sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park

I’ve been struck by a number of online paradigms peeps have used to encourage new encounters:
2010 April to Present: Michael Mundy and his camera have been spending An Afternoon With… someone new in NYC, and everyone in the project recommends someone else! 🙂
2010 July to 2011 December: megan gebhart has 52 Cups of Coffee with new people
2012 January: VB30 – Born Again a group of us set out to meet newcomers to a virtual space.

The avatar "Beautiful Nature" being "tossed" in the waters of San Francisco Bay as part of his "Born Again" ritual.

The Mundy, gebhart, and Blaylock paradigms all focused on creating new person-to-person interactions, but you can also “interact” through observation as Richard Haines does with his experience of the NYC street, illustrated in What I Saw Today.

Taking inspiration from all these projects and more, the Close Encounters project would be a durational work focusing on making new connections and presenting them in an online documentation space. We certainly don’t live in an age characterized by a shortage of connections, still, my inner modernist is captivated by the power of paradigms like Mundy’s Afternoons With or gebhart’s Coffee With.

A detail from Richard Haines' blog "What I Saw Today"

Whether these would be virtual encounters… physical encounters… mixed reality encounters… I don’t know yet… this project wants further thought and lots of refinement. Still, it seems an engaging and fruitful construct.

Any thoughts?


As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

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