Friday, May 30, 2014

Art Abandonment Project
Random acts of guerilla art
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

On a bench along the shoreline of Lake Balaton in
Hungary, Friedel Kammler dropped handcrafted
 jewelry made by Jenny Potter and Donna Furgason,
 Canadian friends that Kammler made through the
 Facebook group. They sent the jewelry to Kammler
 to be abandoned in Hungary so their work could
 “crossover the ocean.” (Photo by Friedel Kammler)
You’re sitting at the bus stop, anxious to get to where you’re going, and you notice a Ziploc bag with a small note inside and something else you can’t quite identify, resting beside you. The note has an elaborately penned letter “A” and the title, “A Gift for You.

You are intrigued, so you pick up the bag and squint to read the rest of the note: “Art Abandonment is a group of artists sharing what we love to do by leaving artwork in random locations across the globe for other to find and enjoy. Today the Universe picks you to receive this gift with the hope that you enjoy it or pass it onto someone else. If you wish, you can send a message to to let us know it was found.”

You turn the bag over to inspect the contents. You think, “Is this for real or some new advertising scheme? Nothing is free, right? What do they want?” There’s a bracelet made of strung beads inside the bag. You open the bag and slip the jewelry around your wrist. It’s kind of cool. You start to relax and feel kind of lucky, like the universe is smiling on you.

The founders of The Art Abandonment Project—Michael deMeng and Andrea Matus deMeng—want you to feel this way. It’s their hope that, through giving away art, the world will become a slightly better place. They created a Facebook page for the group ( and have just published a book, “The Art Abandonment Project: Create and Share Random Acts of Art,” promoting their concept.

Michael deMeng and Andrea Matus deMeng, married
authors of The Art Abandonment Project, teach
 and exhibit their artwork internationally. They live
 in Vancouver, British Columbia and started the so that
 others could share their techniques for making and
 abandoning art. (Photo of their artwork provided by
Michael deMeng)
In the book, Michael deMeng (a Canadian) explains, “Obviously, one could easily abandon art without becoming a member of the Facebook group. This [Facebook] page merely provides an opportunity for others to see the good deeds of the group members as well as share experiences and feelings about the topic.” So members use the page to post photos of their artwork at the drop sites, discuss creative topics, and suggest good locations for abandoning their art.

Michael also discusses the pros and cons of various drop locations:
·         Retail stores: Good for exposure, but the juxtaposition with items for sale might be confusing to shoppers, or unappreciated by store owners.
·         Planes, trains, boats and other public transit: Your art could travel far and end up on another continent, but unidentified packages aren’t popular among security personnel.
·         Nature: Remote locations make your gift that much more unexpected when found, but weather is a factor and discovery may take longer.
·         Adrift at sea: Romantic notion, but not worth the pollution potential (unless it’s biodegradable)
·         Hotels: Good chance it will be found, but may end up in the lost and found cabinet since housekeepers don’t want to be accused of stealing.
Joanne Archer contributed several photos of her abandoned art
 for The Art Abandonment Project book, including this piece left
 on a rocky beach, including one of the standard labels provided for the
 Facebook group. In the book she says, “Once I abandon something,
 I can forget all about it. I have no wish to know who found it,
 nor receive thanks. I only hope that the finder enjoys it.”
(Photo by Joanne Archer)
·         The Big City: Plenty of people in all walks of life, but avoid locations where it might just be perceived as trash.

On April Fool’s day, Friedel Kammler dropped a collage he created with
 parts from printed paintings, on a safety-ring in the Harbor in Fonyod,
 Lake Balaton, Hungary, which made a nice tableau. The second drop that day
—a tiny altered matchbox, with a golden stone inside painted with the
 words “Love is Forever”—was left in the clutched hands of two public
 statues—Adam and Eve. (Photo by Friedel Kammler)
Some abandoners prefer complete anonymity and leave their gifts without a note or even a signature on their art. But, those who leave a note of explanation with the opportunity to respond by email, can sometimes get encouraging validation for their efforts. One example: “Last night we decided to take the kids to the park just before dark, and there on a tree was hanging the most beautiful piece of art, with such an appropriate message, (live out loud) with a clock and beautiful flowers, it brought tears to my eyes, I feel so lucky to have found this beautiful work of art, how can it get better than that? Thank you!!!”

With 14,000+ members, the Facebook-linked group has spread all over the world. When I sent out a request to members for photos of abandoned art, the first response came from Friedel Kammler of Hungary. For April Fool’s Day, he made two “drops”—a collage he created from a painting, left on a life-preserver near a harbor; and a tiny, altered matchbox, with a gold-painted stone inside inscribed with the words “Love is forever,” left in the clasped hands of a naked Adam and Eve statue. Friedel also scatters the work of two Canadian friends he made through the Facebook page, who send him packages of their own handcrafted items to be abandoned in Hungary.

Art Abandoner Gari Vibber says she left this parcel
 on the Oswegatchie River before ice-out. The April
 Fool’s Day challenge put out on the Facebook page by
 Michael deMeng was to make a drop in an unusual place.
 She says the gift was a photograph with an inspirational
 saying, “double-sealed in a waterproof container
 and set free to find its way.” (Photo by Gari Vibber)
Another artist I heard from—Gari Vibber—who creatively abandons jewelry and photographs in icy locations in upstate New York, said, “First, I must tell you that this is such an enlightening, upbeat, encouraging group. I have long been an anonymous, pay-it-forward, random-act-of-kindness kind of gal... this growing movement has insisted I step out of my comfort zone and try new things.”

Besides this drop on a car wash change machine, Gari Vibber of
 upstate New York sent photos of her artwork left on a
 windshield while the owner was out on Lake Ontario ice fishing,
at a restaurant counter with pasta and spaghetti sauce for sale,
 and on a “take me” table at a local church. (Photo by Gari Vibber)
After hearing from these artists and their generous pay-it-forward attitude, I decided it was time for me to step out as well. But deciding what to leave seemed as challenging as finding the right location. Should the gift be not too gender specific? Should it be something practical, such as note cards or jewelry? Should I make my first drop locally or further away? I wanted to be anonymous, but I also wanted the finder to know that this was an intentionally abandoned item, not just forgotten. Maybe too, it was a little hard for me to let go.

Finally, I put the standard AAP note inside a Ziploc (along with my gift) and asked my husband to make the drop. He chose a picnic table near a church parking lot. The gift was gone by the next day, set free to find its own way.

1 comment:

Dawn Gold said...

I love how art abandonment brings joy to lives