Brian Feldman Projects
Orlando Public Library 101 E Central Orlando FL
April 11 through 17, 2010</strong>
In true Tom Sawyer spirit, Brian Feldman has begun co-opting other art minded folks into doing his hard work. This week’s Feldman Event celebrates National Library Week, and for 67 hours, library patrons have volunteered to stand outside on a rail-less overhang and read books to uncaring and possibly illiterate passersby. Opening day of this event fell alongside a type of spring art festival around Lake Eola making parking scarce and expensive, but I lucked into a prime spot on Magnolia and ran inside to drop off some videos. Up on the cast concrete overhang of the Book Bunker was Terry Olson, reading Kate DiCamillo’s “The Tale of Despereaux.” His feet dangled over the edge, giving Mr. Feldman a bit of worry.
Mr. Feldman excels at taking the mundane aspects of life and turning them into mini-spectacles that make you reconsider the deep, inner significance of brushing your teeth or filing your taxes. Getting your library card was a rite of passage in 1963, but when you could sign your name could get all the books you wanted, if only for two weeks. That’s the great thing about libraries – they provide the best entertainment value you can ever find for your dollar, and if you can’t find what you need, they will gladly get you a copy from another library. Besides the low cost, you don’t have to store anything, and if you’ve moved recently, you know books are harder to move than mattresses or large mirrors.
I agreed to participate a few weeks ago, but had some travel conflicts that melted away at the last minute. While some sort of online journalistic mojo should prevent me from commenting on something I’m involved in, this event was too much fun to ignore. I considered several tempting books: I’m 2/3rd’s though Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”, but the extensive kinky sex might offend the city of Buddy Dyer and Glenda Hood. Tolkien seemed too obvious, and Kafka to obscure, so I settled on Anton Chekhov, one of my favorite short story writers. Being obsessive on time myself, it took several days to select “The Portable Chekhov” and pull out 3 stories that would take exactly one hour to read. I was NOT planning to leave my audience hanging two chapters into a Harry Potter epic.
On Tuesday I fought the I-4 traffic up to the South Trail, bailed onto surface streets, and grabbed a parking spot on Magnolia just in time for my 5 o’clock slot. A light Florida rain fell as I crammed enough small change into the meter to hold off the parking Nazis, then a quick jog to the library, and I was ready to ascend to the overhang. The Feldman organization made me sign some releases that came down to acknowledging that if I fell off the overhang or was struck by lightning, Feldman had $0.16 to his name and suing him or the library would be a big bummer for everyone. He also insisted in rights to my silhouette. A homeless guy with two teeth that looked like fangs said I didn’t own it anyway, so what was the problem? I couldn’t see one, and signed.
As my preceding reader was wrapping up, I climbed onto the scissor lift and up we went – the palm trees and poplars went past me, and I climbed out onto the overhang, a surprisingly large space with a nice thick ledge to keep you from plunging to certain paralysis. A riser and tent provided cover, but once I was miked and left to my own devices, I could wander freely. Two loud speakers blasted my voice over Central like an Eastern European propaganda van, and when I got close to them incipient feedback warned me to retreat. Near the back of the overhang I found a pleasant resonance like you get singing in the shower. I vaguely knew Feldman was streaming live video, and he told me later I kept wandering out of frame. As I stepped back to pre-Soviet Russia, spatters of rain threatened and I plowed through “Anna on His Neck”, “Gooseberries,” and “Vanka”. Russia’s humiliating naval defeat by Japan lay in the future, and the country was joining civilized Europe. The virga meant nothing to me, and soon an hour had passed. I hope I was close on pronouncing the Russian names.
My slot ended soon enough, a new reader came up to present a lurid super secret agent tale, and I took that slow industrial lift back to the mundane world of day jobs and distressed relations. From the ground, the event recalled the end of “Fahrenheit 451” where individuals have taken up the task of remembering great works of literature in a world that banned print. Before and after me came books like “Watership Down” and “Catcher in the Rye” and “Siddhartha”. The readers ranged from Elizabeth Maupin to Harriett Lake to Billy Manes – a disparate lot, but we all have one thing in common – a library card.
For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit http://www.brianfeldman.com/