The next time you pass by one of those hastily written “LOST” signs on a telephone pole or mailbox in Southeast, take a closer look. You know, the kind with a telephone number to tear off at the bottom to contact the desperate owner of a lost dog or cat. It won’t say lost giraffe, though it may seem just as surreal.
The signs are part of a viral campaign to publicize an upcoming theatrical performance at the Soap Factory, 518 SE Second St., conceived by artists and Marcy-Holmes residents Mark Abel Garcia and Megan Mayer. Actors will perform and interpret Garcia’s script and Mayers’ choreography, starting June 5.
In the six weeks leading up to the show, the white, letter-sized sheets of paper appeared all over the neighborhood, in three separate installments. They showed up on Seventh Avenue, Fourth Street, University Avenue, Sixth and Fifth avenues. They were clinging, curled up and torn from wind and rain, to telephone poles already studded with dozens of rusty staples used in previous attempts to find or sell something. Area businesses like Dunn Brothers and the Wilde Roast Café also carried the cryptic communiqués.
One round of signs read “LOST!” followed by a round expressionless face, then the word “HAPPINESS” spelled out vertically in a box. The tear-off parts read “socktesting” but offered no contact number or email address. According to Garcia, this was intentional. Another round of signs had a website address that could be torn off: www.myspace.com/socktesting.
Later, a small poster then went up in many of the same locations, reading “HAPPINESS,” “ANGER” and “CONFUSION.” Written below were four of the best-known lines in 20th century poetry, courtesy of T.S. Eliot: “This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” On the back was a short synopsis of the “work-in-progress” and the usual information, date, time, location, and price.
So how did this all get started? The two artists ran into each other at a dance Mayer was performing in back in 2006. They would meet over coffee, talking about ideas they had, projects they were interested in doing, and they started writing “socktesting” about a year ago. Garcia has a BFA in theatre arts from Texas Tech and and currently writes business articles for the web. Mayer has a degree in modern dance from the University of Minnesota and performs regularly while holding down a day job.
Both recall the “Honey, where are my socks?” IKEA commercial about product testing and repetition. Hence the name “socktesting.” For Garcia, the show “is about being suffocated by the ritualized routines we have set up for ourselves and not knowing it,” he said. As for the Eliot poem, due to repetition, Garcia says it has “lost some of its meaning and now is used in cliché.”
Mayer laments how routine causes us “to lose sight of what’s in front of us and gloss over what really matters. I see this piece as a way to spark myself to find meaning in what I have now,” she said, “rather than regret not appreciating it when it becomes too late.”
June 5–8, 12, 13 and 15
518 SE Second St.
Tickets: $15; $10 with student ID
For more information, visit www.myspace.com/socktesting or email firstname.lastname@example.org