For my intervention project I set up a little “booth” on the ISEC bridge and put up some parodic posters of the University Health Counseling Services– my booth was the “University Hospitality Concierge Something” and was labeled “the doctor is in! 15 min for $70k.” The purpose of this intervention was to protest the lack of funding for the UHCS and how it affected students, with many rarely being able to schedule any consistent help for more than a couple 15 minute sessions. This seems especially egregious to me considering the incredibly large tuition fees students pay, close to $70k a year , and the University spending millions on other projects, including the ISEC and EXP (ISEC II) project, the former of which cost $225 million. I chose the bridge as the perfect representation of these excesses– it has since come to my attention that the bridge is part of the EXP project and not the original $225 million, but it’s still part of Northeastern’s ludicrous redevelopment master plan that totals at $1.9 billion.
My initial version of the intervention was a booth set up in the middle of the ISEC bridge, with volunteers lining up in front of it down the steps. I thought this would create a staggering visual that would drive the point home but quickly ran into problems when it came to practicality– apparently, the ISEC project has a history with protests, primarily the group DivestNU, which was received incredibly poorly by the university and students alike. This, alongside the nearby NUPD presence, made it very difficult to get volunteers. Other concerns that came up were accessibility issues.
As such, I restructured my project to just be the booth on the side. I stayed there from 1:30 to 3, joined by a couple of friends. The reaction to the booth was varied. Most people looked at our booth and seemed apathetic, others looked at it and seemed confused, a number of people smiled or laughed it, and a few people approached us to talk. While it’s improper to judge on appearances alone, we noticed there were some clear divides in reaction by gender/race. For instance, the preppy white males we saw almost always reacted negatively, and looked visibly upset and international students almost always looked confused. Perhaps most notably all of the people that actually interacted with us were either female or people of color.
Interestingly enough the people that approached us seemed to buy into a “roleplay;” we joked about a $70k IOU and they started venting about their problems, even though we were total strangers. It seemed reminiscent of the Five Day Locker Piece, where people simply felt comfortable talking about their lives because of the redefined context of interaction, even if the person was just a random artist (C. Carr, On Edge). I feel these couple of interactions would have been impossible with the large line I originally intended, and so I think that having to restructure the piece made it more successful in the end.