Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Project IV: The Dive ... A Rainbow of Paper Airplanes - by Alex von Vaupel

this fickle season
of rain and sunshine
i try my luck
and go in search
the rainbow’s end

When @platea announced Project IV: The Dive, I loved the idea immediately. I had a vision of a rainbow of coloured paper airplanes skydiving into a crowded street. The airplanes would have poems printed on them. Would anybody notice? Would the poems just get trampled, or would people catch an airplane, stop to take a closer look?

The Dive was announced at short notice, so I didn't have much time to prepare. My original idea had been to let the airplanes skydive somewhere in Amsterdam, but as it turned out, I was in Canterbury, UK, on the specified dates. I had fun playing with the idea, trying different things to make it work. Practicing how to fold a paper airplane that will actually fly, selecting poems, walking around town to spot the best location. I came up with an airplane design that had the poem printed on the wings, and links to the Platea blog and my own printed on the inside.

Paper Airplanes - Photo by Julia Freeman

It's hard to find a crowd in Canterbury, on a september week day. The tourists have gone, and the students haven't returned yet. The busiest place I could find was a spot in the highstreet near some popular sandwich bars, where many people buy their lunch.

grey morning
my own rainbow

So, on wednesday, Sept 9th, I went to the city centre with my bag full of paper airplanes, to launch them into the street. I teamed up with photographer Julia Freeman to take pictures of the airplanes flying around. All the pictures posted here were taken by her.

I had imagined to make a nice rainbow arch with the airplanes, but of course the vision I had did not factor in practicalities like the direction of the wind ...
The airplanes went Everywhere! Some people caught them and read the poem, some people just walked by, others threw the airplanes back at me. A few were annoyed, this was not a crowd of tourists, they were busy people trying to get back to work. I know I had fun throwing the airplanes at them anyway!

Paper Airplane - Photo by Julia Freeman

It was just like the leaves falling off a tree, most people never look up to notice, the leaves get trampled on. Occasionally someone like me will come along and watch, maybe pick up a leaf and take it home.

A dive back into childhood...
Those people who stopped to talk to me all commented how the airplanes reminded them of being a child:'oh i loved to do that when I was a kid' ... 'my daughter would love this'... 'isn't it fun being twelve!'

I think they were right, this was a dive into childhood, for me and for the public. The airplanes invited people to remember that childish curiosity that makes us notice things. Especially those things that busy grownups ignore. A child will stop to marvel at the leaves falling from a tree, collect the leaves, play with them.

Paper Airplane - Photo by Julia Freeman

It's that attitude to the world that is needed to write haiku and tanka poetry, to notice what is happening, take a moment to reflect. The photos Julia managed to get of the flying airplanes have that 'haiku moment' feel to them. Stop, look around you!

they see only street
commuters passing by
the tree
throws conkers
at their heads

With hindsight the project could have done with more preparation, and a better location. Perhaps with a more captive audience, like people sitting in a park or a square in a big city, on a summer day. More airplanes and a good spot to throw them down from would help create an actual rainbow.

On the other hand, you have to be careful, if the crowd is too big, it becomes difficult to aim... you don't want the point of an airplane hitting someone. Also beware of the authorities, I am not entirely sure if I would have needed a license, had I done this on a bigger scale. I made sure to pick up after myself, in order not to get nicked for littering.

Paper Airplane - Photo by Julia Freeman

The airplanes went down quickly and many ended up trampled on the street. This skydive was as brief in real life as the pictures and poems dived through my twitterstream.

The practical aspects may need a little work, but clearly the concept worked: people loved the idea, and it had the desired effect of making people stop and wonder, remember what it was like to be a child, before moving on.

I would like to thank the @platea crew for this wonderful, playful opportunity. Please comment and let me know what you think!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ready for The Dive? Here's the list of performers (it's not too late to sign up!)

Alrighty, folks, are you ready for The Dive? Here's the final list of performers for Project IV, but REMEMBER that you can simply add your name to the comments, and we'll pop it on this list. I know I saw a few other folks were talking about The Dive on Twitter, but they didn't formally sign up, so please just feel free to add your name to the comments, and I'll place it on the blog post right away. We may extend the performance to Friday, in any case.

And, just start diving!

PG Stonefly

Jorge Alvarez
Twitter, Facebook

Alex Von Vaupel
Twitter, Facebook, Blog

Cynthia Lewis
Twitter, Facebook

Aaron Chen
Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, Flickr

Trish Mayo
Facebook, Twitter, Flickr

Amy Finkbeiner

Shelby Cunningham
Twitter, Facebook, Flickr

Lisa Hoang

Christi Nielsen
Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, 12seconds

Jonny Gray
Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Blogger

Carse Ramos
Facebook, Twitter, Flickr

Joanie San Chirico
Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Blogger

Jennifer Ng
Twitter, Facebook, Flickr

Tumblr, Flickr, Twitter

Yael David
Facebook, Twitter

Ingrid Murnane
Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed

Sheila Cunningham
Twitter, Facebook

An Xiao
FriendFeed and Facebook