Today I was generously accepted into the French Broad CoOp farmers market in downtown Asheville. Upon the direction of my hostess, Jane, she knew there was an empty lot, but did not know that Wednesday's was market day. I luckily pulled in before the space was filled with pop-up tents and merchants selling their wares. A quick conversation with the outreach coordinator, Clare, at the CoOp and I was accepted for the day. Many thanks to the great folks at the French Broad CoOp, you made it easy for my art to happen and I thank you!
Downtown Asheville is a crossroads of tourists, locals, and folks coming in town. A cosmopolitan city I surmised, hoping for a wide geographic/demographic input on the flag. Instead, the challenge today was hustling people to engage with the art work. Nothing more than simple location and presence, my flag was back away from the sidewalk of vendors, creating a spanse of 20 feet which many chose not to traverse. This presented a choice of either get out and bark to involve people, or sit back and easily observe who chose to interact. Given the chronically slow syllable lingo of native Asheville hippies, I chose to allow people to interact on their own. It was like....whoa....!.......!!!!......faaaar out....man.
One of the first people to share on the flag was Michelle. Truly engaged with all that is happening, Michelle informed me of many conspiracies that are about to come to fruition. This is my first encounter with someone who has a higher understanding of what's going on. She intimated to me that the whole system is rigged (yes), that Hillary is going to be president (yes, go on), that then she will be assassinated (Oh, really?) to leave our political system in such turmoil, and with Justice Scalia out of the way, Obama will sit a third term (No shit?). I asked if she thought maybe President Obama is ready to complete his term and move on to something else, "Oh, no. He loves the power too much, he wants to stay and I'm so happy if that happens." That last part was a bit of a trip for me, thinking that for all the stands of this conspiracy, Michelle must not like the President. Who would have thunk it? I think she wants to give the guy a raise!
Through out the day, people would approach and present themselves in front of the flag reading all the other expressions, only to decline to participate. One young lady, pictured above left, readily took up the pen and wrote "I love our Troops, #Merica" Of hispanic descent, I wondered if her brother was enlisted in our military. So many people come to our country for a better life and in gaining that life improvement have tremendous gratitude for being in the United States. Why is our national gratitude so bitter when we all have so much? That's a hard one to pin down.
The center image is of a lovely pair of ladies who felt that some of the colorful language on the flag need to be embellished. This way people may not see the word in the same context, but they refused to mark it out completely. It was an interesting lesson in tolerance and censorship and what you can do within your own power to change meaning. Maybe there is a tool kit for tolerance that could be developed that combines respect with self-assertiveness to be the change in the world, without infringing upon others?
Lastly I met a young man towards the end of the day who wrote "DISIDENTIFY" on the flag. I'm pretty sure he has now coined the term, I was confused as to what it meant. When I inquired, replied that he agreed "we're all fucked." I couldn't help but wonder what his angst was. I got the impression that I maybe talking to someone who is of the alt-right perspective. My interpretation of his chosen expression linked "identify" and our on-going cultural expansion of LGBTQ rights, where the term "identify" is an active function of daily life. Did this young man feel that he (or we as Americans) have nothing worth celebrating that we should disown our identity as Americans? I appreciate this honest expression because there are many people in our country who maybe feel like America is not their country anymore, but they should.
Finally, if you're in Asheville on a Wednesday, you should make your way to this farmer's market for one thing only: fresh baked bread. The other vendor in the back with me was Tom. A soft spoken fella, Tom has been a baker for more than 20 years. He has a small wood fired oven and bakes sourdough, rustic baguette, and focaccia. Everyone wanted some, many repeat customers. Tom said he used to back commercially, working working working all the time, but now, just on Wednesdays. We chatted throughout the day and Tom told me of the changes that has come to Asheville. Each time he pulled fresh bread from his oven, someone was there to buy it. I caught on quickly and nabbed a delicious load of focaccia. We both agreed there is a lot to be gained from a "less is more" perspective. We didn't talk too much politics, but by the end of the day, Tom wanted to give his perspective. "If Trump is elected, he'll do all the stuff Hillary has already done." Pretty shrewd assessment, but Tom really doesn't care, he's just going to keep sharing whats good in life with good people in Asheville- his fresh baked bread.