No Phone Day Story
No Phone Day was an international performance of collective forgetting that happened on May 26, 2018. Over 70 people participated in my social networks and left their phones at home for 12 hours. There were also hundreds of postcards and posters that were placed in businesses around the San Francisco Bay Area. There is no way of knowing how many people participated, or how many people left their phones at home, accidentally. Several people also participated on different days, staggering the time-period of the event. Elwyn Palmerton, an Oakland based artist, referred to this piece as the Schrödinger's cat of performance documentation. It eludes any proof that it happened.
There was a sense during No Phone Day of being alone together; being a part of a collective and a happening can occur remotely, thwarting site-specificity.
There was also a sense of what Diana Taylor refers to as the repertoire; my body can move throughout the world differently and transfer knowledge, without needing to record or capture anything. If other people joined me in moving throughout the world differently this knowledge could be transferred remotely, without relying on an archive.
This piece was inspired by my struggles with impulse control, that are exasperated by my cellphone use, daily. I was on a flight recently sitting next to a woman who ate half of a cookie and did not finish the second half for 5.5 hours. This kept me up at night. There is no conceivable reality where I would not have finished the second half of that cookie. I think of my cell phone use and pop-up notifications as the second half of that cookie.
This piece was also inspired by a Julia Bryan-Wilson lecture called “Minds Over Matter,” about telepathy and telekinesis in performance art in the 1970s. I imagined during the performance piece that collective participation was formed through telepathy.
I discovered during the performance, that wandering around San Francisco with a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, is one of the best ways to meet people. The copy of Hell’s Angels was purchased at Bound Together Anarchist Collective Bookstore, in Haight Ashbury, after my poster was enthusiastically put in the store window.
The posters and postcards were an important part of this project for me because I really wanted to communicate with people outside of my social network. The posters and flyers completely changed the way I see San Francisco: the difference between the vibes of businesses with community billboards versus the vibes of ones that do not have them, and the many types of communication that are transferred within these spaces. & thank you if you are reading this and you were one of the shopkeepers who was really excited about this project or one of the store owners who have a community billboard -you really make a difference in the cultural landscape of our milieu. There is, perhaps, nothing more democratic than being able to put a poster up in a public space to tell other people what is happening. Events and gatherings can happen almost out of thin air.