Artist and first-year Roski MFA student Marc Horowitz is no stranger to strangers. In 2005, while working as a photo assistant at Crate and Barrel, he snuck his his phone number, along with the message "dinner w/ Marc," into a product shot in their national catalog. He spent the next year or so traversing the country, having dinner with some of the 30,000 people who called him after seeing it.
A couple of years later, he signed his first name across a map of the United States, then drove that route, stopping to "improve" nineteen towns along the way. At one stop (Craig, Colorado) he symbolically—and literally—buried all of the town's problems.
Now Horowitz is embarking on his latest project, this time taking on the idea of strangers directly. Beginning on November 1st, Horowitz will for a month "live by popular vote," making decisions both large and small—from personal grooming to family relationships—based on the results of online voting, open to the public.
Horowitz's project, The Advice of Strangers, is presented by Creative Time, a New York non-profit organization dedicated to presenting innovative art in the public realm. Along with voting, people will be able to follow Horowitz's decisions and their repercussions through online video.
While the idea of online voting affecting the lives of individuals is nothing new, it's usually very pointed and well contained—determining who will be American Idol, for instance. Horowitz is taking the principle to its extreme, exploring new territory—as a public figure, an observer of online culture, and an artist.
"Unlike the experiments with chance in art history, what distinguishes Horowitz is that his work is emblematic of a culture that lives in the physical world and virtual simultaneously," said Nato Thompson, Chief Curator at Creative Time. "This project amplifies a condition already percolating in culture at large, and Horowitz's slapstick comedic nature is indicative of the aesthetic and cultural language germane to online platforms."
Another condition in culture—though not, it seems, at large—is the cruelty that, it has been suggested, the anonymity of the Internet can breed. Anyone who has heard of the threats and pranks of the 4chan message board, or the recent spate of Internet-related violence, must be at least a little nervous for Horowitz. He himself is aware of the risk, but doesn't seem too worried.
"As people get to know me over the month, I suspect some will become more nurturing, and some might become more sadistic," Horowitz said. "Whatever the case, I will stay the course decided by [the] online community. I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises along the way."
The Advice of Strangers runs until November 30th. More about Marc and his other projects is available on his Web site, www.ineedtostopsoon.com.