September 1, 2010 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Thompson Center (Clark and Randolph)
“What are you doing?
Hugging. What are you doing?
Watching you hug.”
We hide the plastic bag from our balloons in the Picasso sculpture. At one point it flies away but someone picks it up and throws it away so we do not have to break our embrace.
Our friend Ayako comes to visit as we are hugging. She is from Japan. She says that giving hugs is very American. She tell us her grandmother was from California and gave her lots of hugs when she was a child. Her grandmother was a hugger and so she became a hugger as well. It’s how she has gotten by in the U.S. I ask her how people show affection in Japan. She says people give gifts. People also express affection and interest by quietly looking at one another from a distance. This is a kind of hug from afar. Sara and I would like to try this.
A woman comes up and asks us what we are doing. We tell her about our project – what and why. “You know people are gonna think you’re gay, right?” she tells us in a concerned voice. I tell her that people can think what they want.
This location feels very different then all of the others. There are very few tourists. People come and go from the Thompson Center with purpose. Many seem in a hurry to get something done.
It’s diverse. People of all different ages, colors, and ethnicities pass us. Lots of families. Lots of kids.
Many people smile. Some sneer.
Some people make eye contact while others avoid it.
I am present today, still, focused. I hold onto Sara firmly yet softly. Today this feels like an important act.
A man who leers as he passes by shouts, “You need a man in there! No really, you do!”
A man comes up to us and begins a conversation. He likes hugs but prefers hangs (hanging out), high fives, and colored lights. He likes to sit in his house in front of his colored lights and listen to music with a friend.
He stays for a while, describing his colored lights in great detail–color and shape and from where they are purchased. He remind me of a character in a Tennessee Williams play:
“I never was hard or self-sufficient enough. When people are soft–soft people have got to shimmer and glow–
they’ve got to put on soft colors, the colors of butterfly wings, and put a–paper lantern over the light…”
– Blanche from Streetcar Named Desire
Sara tells me someone is photographing us with a huge telephoto lens. He must want to photograph our pores hugging. He works for the Tribune. He comes up to ask us some questions. We tell him about our project–what and why. He says there must be something more. Are we intimate? He begins talking about an artist who photographs hugs mobs of people in the nude in different cities. He cannot remember the artists’ name. The artist is Spencer Tunick. His largest installation was in Mexico City where 18,000 people posed nude for him. The journalist from the Trib says he admires this artist. It’s incredible that he gets people to take off their clothes, then he snaps a photo and leaves. I am close to positive this is not the way Tunick works but I like the idea of the renegade photojournalist who somehow catches thousands of people nude in an artistic formation.
I wonder if this has any relation to our hug. Perhaps there is a connection in exposure, laying bare, vulnerability.
Somehow, though, I don’t think we will be trying a nude hug.