Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Watching the Ocean on TV

Today (Sunday) was the last day of the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition at Bondi Beach near Sydney. Some 100 statues and installation pieces were spread over a long stretch of sea cliffs. The setting was fantastic, the weather alternately sunny and overcast. While there were a couple pieces that struck my interest (i.e. a giant faucet overlooking the ocean called “Who Left the Faucet On?”), there was one piece that stuck out to me.

“The Best Part of Perth” was a snarky dig at Australia’s much maligned city. And that is a shame because an old TV set perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean could have been a great commentary on waste, our bastardization of natural resources, and man’s inherent obsession with technology. It reminded me of an add in which a guy is sitting in a tent watching a sunset over a beautiful vista, talking about how his friend keeps inviting him over to check out the life-like hi-def picture on his new 60” TV. “It must be some view.”

My day, having wrapped up a bit early, could have had me back at the hostel by 3. But I took the gamble and decided to be the awesome I want to see in the world (something I hope to be doing more of). And so I sat in front of the TV, intently watching it. I did it at first to be a part of the exhibit, to take the meaning back into the ones I had gotten out of it and make the piece more meaningful to me. I did it obviously, but unobtrusively, so I wasn’t dead center on the set. People could take pictures around me. But I kept sitting there when I realized that I was people watching in the reflections on the screen. I stared at the screen watching a show. And what started as a commentary on technology and smartphone culture became my own personal show of tourists walking by, taking pictures, and many being confused as to how a TV was art.

In the hour I sat there (yes, hour), I had a few good interactions. A woman appreciated my addition and took pictures of me watching the TV in front of the sea. She sat down, asked me questions, asked if I was the artist, and got my email to send me the pictures. A girl came up and waved her hand in front of my face. When I moved she was startled and informed her dad that I was not, in fact, part of the sculpture. One guy asked if I was a part of the piece. “I am for now.” A few people sat down with me and watched. The first few did so silently for a minute. A little girl sat down and informed me the TV wasn’t on. I told her she could switch the channel if she wanted. And we joked back and forth for a minute.

But the piece de resistance was Cathy. She sat down and asked what I was watching. “It’s a whodunit. I want to find out.”

“How far in are you?”

“About halfway.”

“Who is it looking like?”

“Well, they just arrested the boyfriend.”

“Which means he clearly didn’t do it.”

“Exactly. My money’s on the repairman.”

And so we talked for a bit, discussed the area and country, what I was doing there. When her friends came back to collect her a couple minutes later, she asked what my plans were. When I told her that I didn’t have any, she simply said, “Well, come along then. Got to see the rest of the sculptures.”

And so it was that I ended up with a new circle of friends. Locals. Friendly, exuberant, fun. They were like hanging out with a group back home. I learned some slang, I worked on my accent, found out that Cathy is a firespinner, goofed around, made an extravagant fool of myself, and overall had a fantastic time of it. I put myself out there and was rewarded to find people who appreciate the person I put forward. And when that behavior is reinforced, it makes it that much easier to be friendly and goofy again. Smiling. It does wonders.

Oh, and it turns out it was the brother-in-law who did it. I totally did not see that one coming.

One comment on “Watching the Ocean on TV

  1. Pingback: What I Learned In Oz (pt. 3) | Spin the Globe

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2011 by in Australia, NSW (Sydney).

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