One woman, lots of paint and hundreds of tiles. If you're here because you found a painted tile, it's yours to keep.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A closer look at Dropspots.org

London performance artist Ed Purver. Chicago filmmaker Brijetta Hall, and California Web developer Dan Phiffer met at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

One of the things they share is their love for finding things on the street, such as photos, letters or anything that might provide the tiniest insight into another person’s life. They aren’t alone in their passion for this. It’s what fueled Davy Rothbart to launch Found magazine, and what drives others to read it. But this trio has taken “found culture” to a new level by making it easier for people to find things (while increasing their own access to “found” stuff).

While visiting a pre-planned location to retrieve something hidden there for the sole purpose of being found isn’t quite the same as finding a soiled and torn diary page randomly blowing down a street, the experience is special in other ways.

The chances of ever learning whose diary that soiled page was torn from is slim, but if someone visits your hiding place after finding it on Dropspots.org, they may post about their find on the site – or not. There’s also the chance that someone who doesn’t even know about Dropspots will find your item and consider it a random discovery. Among the things people hide are photos, poems, quotes, little games, art, CDs or even things meant to inspire creativity and participation. Hall, for example, hid containers of modeling clay along with notes asking the finders to create something and post a photo to Drospots.

She’s still waiting, but recent posts to the Web site indicate that photos of tiny sculptures will soon be forthcoming.

Purver says that one of his favorite Dropspot finds was a color slide dated 1969. “It’s this strange scene that looks like an interior design studio in the 1960s like something by the Eames brothers but you can’t tell which way up it should be, like the ceiling could be the floor," Purver says. "The person who left [the slide] wrote their e-mail on it.”

He sent her a message and now they’re friends.

“I think most of us have things that have the potential for becoming magical and when we hide them and give them away with no explanation,” Purver says, “it’s like allowing that magic to be set free.”

While Dropspots.org was launched in New York there are now dropspots around the world, including a few in Fort Lauderdale that I posted myself. The bookstore one is probably long gone, so I’ll have to figure out how to delete it, but the other one was a really good hiding space, so it’s probably still there. I’m new at this, so I haven’t yet scoped out many nooks and hiding places on my walks, nor have I tested my painted tiles to see how they withstand being left outside for days, or weeks.

If you like Dropspots, create your own and spread the word. I experienced some trial and error when creating the first one but the second was pretty easy. You can even import pics to show where you’ve hidden something or the view form where it’s hidden.

Not enough people really know about this, but there’s something special about that, too. I’ll take a photo of my next hiding spot and post it here. Meanwhile, I think there’s still one hidden out there and there's something exciting about knowing that it could be seconds, minutes, days, weeks or months before anyone finds it. I wonder who it will be, what they will do with it, and where it will end up 10 years from now.


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