Vote with Your Feet by Leah Marthinsen / Ann Marie Lonsdale
Identify a public space
City sidewalks are ubiquitous, intensely populated, yet rarely sites of connection. People pass through them, eyes forward, heading elsewhere. Yet, as Americans increasingly surround themselves with the like-minded, the public city sidewalk is one of the few remaining locations where we can physically engage with difference, diversity & disagreement. Vote with Your Feet temporarily transforms the site of “just-passing-through” sidewalk into site of public discourse. The three locations shown have been selected as spaces that are heavily trafficked, with a mixed population and spread throughout the city; however, the proposal strategy is replicable anywhere there is a public sidewalk, and people moving through it.
Crowd-sourcing, interactivity, and collaboration are the words of the day. We are surrounded by participatory media, asking for attention, content, feedback. And yet, this participation is often disconnected from our physical spaces, the meaty reality of our daily lives. In contrast to the open floodgates of the digital marketplace, participation in the non-digital world can be intensely regulated (protests, parades and parties all require permits), limited in scope (voting occurs only every two years), or out of reach of the average citizen (ads & billboards are not rented with pocket money).
Vote with Your Feet proposes the construction of three “discursive turnstiles” at well-trafficked pedestrian areas. Rather than directing commute traffic, the turnstiles pose a question to passersby—questions that are answered via movement through one side of the turnstile. The installations function as a moment of contemplation within the bustle of movement, turning reflection into a public & spatial act. The results are tallied continually and displayed above the turnstile, thus offering further opportunities for reflection.
The questions are intended to be apolitical: provoking thought, rather than reaction. Ideally, responses to the questions will connect individuals that, politically and socially, might have nothing else in common. For it is in such moments of shared humanity that we find opportunities for connection, collaboration, and common understanding—the foundation of free speech.
Vote with Your Feet will be implemented in three stages.
1. Finding a question: question topics and feedback on potential topics will be solicited via online forum, and open to both residents and visitors of the site. We’ll gather ideas both by physically surveying people onsite, as well as through digital outreach. We hope this will also generate anticipation & excitement for the future phases.
2. Execution: the turnstiles require minimal material—just a framework & wiring for the counting sensors. We plan on pre-fabricating the modules for faster assembly, potentially by volunteers. They will be installed and remain in place over the course of a week (or longer, depending on the site constraints.)
3. Analysis: The turnstile results will be made public both digitally, and as informational signage around the sites, allowing the conversations to continue.
Leah Marthinsen is an architect & designer based in the Bay Area with a passion for using the design process to inspire community engagement. Her work spans scales from the intimate (installations & theater design) to the massive (urban planning and campus building). She currently works at EHDD Architecture.
Ann Marie Lonsdale is an arts manager with extensive experience as a producer and administrator for innovative and experimental live performance. She has worked as a performer, stage manager and producer in theater and dance in Chicago and New York, and is currently the General Manager at Center for Performance Research.