Inside the Airbnb Haus in Park City, analog and digital are coming together in a pair of installations: Ivan Cash’s Strangers Drawing Strangers and The Booth’s Once Upon A Stranger. Both explore and encourage connections between strangers. Since everyone is welcome to pop into the Airbnb Haus, there’s been a wide range of participants and creations.
Strangers Drawing Strangers is the brainchild of interactive artist and filmmaker Ivan. Here’s how it works: After your Polaroid is taken, you place the photo in an envelope along with a card that includes your name, hidden talent, and Instagram handle. (The Instagram handle allows the artist and the subject of the drawing to connect online.) Next, you go to the nearby card catalog drawer and pull out an envelope that was left by a stranger. Then you head to the art table, where a bevy of supplies—pencils, crayons, markers, scissors—are at your disposal. Once you’re finished, you pass off your art to Ivan and his team, who will display the Polaroid and art together on the wall. The gallery is ever-changing as new works are constantly completed and the pictures are rotated through.
“I always like when people participate in a way that I didn’t imagine and use their creativity,” says Ivan. He points to a crayon portrait that was cut out in the shape of the subject’s head and adds: “This person die cut that, and I didn’t think that anyone would do that.”
At any given time, the wall features about 50 or so works. “It’s cool to see how some people included messages, while some were more minimalistic,” observes Ivan. “I like how we literally have stick figures and then we have beautifully rendered artist portraits from professional cartoonists. To me, the variety is really neat.”
For one portrait, a caption is scrawled as well as the person’s visage: “Claire has an extra stomach for sweeties.” In another piece, with the addition of a microphone and musical notes, the person in the Polaroid has been turned into a singer. A three- or four-year-old who chose crayons as his medium was most likely the youngest artist to stop by so far.
Across the room, The Booth, a mobile studio that hosts photo sessions, has set up Once Upon A Stranger. People can fill in the blanks on one of three prompt cards, or start from scratch with an empty page. The idea is to send a note to a friend who was once a stranger, or a stranger who should be a friend. The instructions are loose: “Recall a memory. Make one up. Be creative. Get weird. After all, it’s your story.”
The Booth’s Sigurjon Gudjonsson, who describes himself as “the tech guy,” records the author writing out a message. Then the 30-second recording is compressed to a 15-second stop-motion video that can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
“There have been some great artists making funny little drawings,” says Ian Londin, a co-founder of The Booth. “Text-wise, there have been a lot of messages to friends and celebrities—wishing they weren’t strangers anymore. There have been messages to parents: ‘Thank you for sending me off to Sundance.’ And then with the prompts, people have been making up some really cool stories.”
Sometimes, the messages are a bit of a mystery—except to the author. “I can’t even read that!” says Ian as a participant named Aaron hands him his paper. That’s because Aaron’s note is written in Georgian. It translates to: “Hello, my Georgian friends! I love you guys.”
This is a guest post by Anh-Minh Le who is the editor in chief and cofounder of Anthology Magazine, as well as a regular contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle and SFC&G. She is also an Editor at Large for California Home + Design. Travel and design are among her passions, and browsing Airbnb listings never fails to give her a serious case of wanderlust.