The Leonid Project: A Society Of Moments Production

In late 2015 a group of artists and thinkers converged on the public bench as an item of cultural critique.  These artists included Oona Risling-Sholl (work seen above and below in mixed-media), Joseph Glode (photos below), Kyla Foster, and myself.  We stated:

Society of Moments

In the light, or the half-light, of the everyday, the constellation of moments cannot be seen. But when something disturbing casts a shadow on the everyday, that constellation rises on the horizon. We each of us choose our star, freely, but with the impression of an irresistible inner necessity. No one is forced to choose. There is no astrological explanation for the constellation of moments: freedom has no horoscope.
— Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life

The Society of Moments is a commonwealth of thinkers, artists, activists—residents of everyday life—concerned with our shared experience and interested in changing it through creative critique. Organized around the loci of communication (website, print, podcast, gallery), we are working together to address three phenomena: the reality to be overcome, the knowledge already acquired, and the myriad of ways to combine the two towards the “uniting of the Moment and the everyday, of poetry and all that is prosaic in the world, in short, of Festival and ordinary life, on a higher plane than anything which has hitherto been accomplished.”
The Society of Moments is a paradigm for focused and localized critique in varied forms. Such critiques do not, and fundamentally cannot, exist divorced from the realm of the everyday. On the contrary, they are conceived on the street and in the garden. They gestate while bills are paid and dinner prepared. They birth in dialogue, labor, and performance, and live in the communion of experience—only to die in the skyscraper’s shadow. These critiques are moments themselves and, as such, are a constellation of attempts to achieve the total realization of possibilities.
Operating in metropolitan Portland, Oregon, the Society of Moments addresses issues of local interest which resonate beyond the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Indeed, the Society is itself a confluence of artistic critique composed of documentary photography, graphic and plastic arts, and the written word. In addition to providing critical content, we offer a platform for artistic collaboration and, thus, the Society of Moments is not so much an organization but, rather, the fabric through which constellations take form.

August, 2015

Our focus on the bench was described as follows:

Project One: The Bench

Our first project involves something so common that it receives little to no attention: the public bench. Seemingly ubiquitous in urban society, these objects rarely enter dialogue and are thus neglected in importance. It is within this gap that we put forward our critique and, in accordance with our statement of purpose, we look at the public bench as follows:

What is the reality to be overcome?

Benches are not just places to sit, be it in the park, at the bus stop, or by the waterfront. They are barriers, platforms, and vehicles—they are social settings. The reality of the public bench is a cite of everyday struggle. One such struggle is that benches are being modified and divided so as to inhibit human beings from lying down. The impact of this phenomenon is hidden and must be uncovered. The reality must be documented and critiqued. This is the first goal of the project.

What is the knowledge already acquired?

The history of the bench in-and-of itself is sparse, and this is likely because benches are mundane objects. Often taken for granted, we must, in turn, grant these objects a historical narrative. We need to collect and synthesize the available information in order to give the public bench a durable place in the realm of the everyday. But this realm is not limited to our local setting of Portland, Oregon; the struggle over the public bench unfolds in many, if not most, cities throughout the world. Have other efforts been made to address this common phenomenon? If so, we must bring these efforts onto our horizon, so to speak, in order to better see the totality. This is the second goal of the project.

How to combine the two?

The realm of Society of Moments is the artistic affirmation of possibilities through combining historical narrative, documentation, critique, and everyday life. Such an affirmation is the third goal of the project and as more collaborators enter into the dialogue at hand, the methods and tactics for addressing this phenomenon will proliferate and intensify. What is clear is that we plan on publishing our research and critique, both online and in print, as well as holding public art events in the coming year.

September, 2015

This brief foray resulted in the following items, in order of previous publication: