The Story that Came From the Place

Dickie Cox

Dickie Cox

The moment I saw the bush that had been cultivated to have no center mass I felt I was staring at a nest. In the hour or so leading up to finding this bush, we had been talked about observation, habitualization, and perception as sensation. I allowed myself to follow this moment of sensation and imagine myself seated in the center of this bush. Then the memory of the faux ficus down the block came to me. And the thought of sitting and the ficus, brought to mind an experience from my first trip to San Francisco.

I was awe-struck and immediately at home there. It was my honeymoon and I had wanted to visit San Fran for a long time, especially, Musee Mecanique, in Fisherman’s Wharf. No doubt to me that I must have seemed a total tourist that day as my glaze turned my neck and head here and there taking in the sites of a new place. And that is when I was surprised out of my mind by the infamous Bush Man of Fisherman’s Wharf ( When he shouted “Ahhhh” and waved his faux ficus branches; which he had been hiding behind in plain view, in his hands, I rocketed backwards and prepared for fight or flight.

He chuckled and so did others in the crowd. How did I not see him and his contraption immediately in front of me? Later in the afternoon, I found myself on the opposite side of the street watching others becoming swiftly aware of the Bush Man in their surrounding. I wanted to harness that energy in a more playful and gentle way.

My Observations of the Block

There were more pedestrians than I expected and I got a sense that their travels were very directed; focused. While I will purposefully observing them in the environment, I felt little interaction with passers-by as we passed. People who were stopped on the street said hello and eyed my legal pad curiously. The intersection of Elm and Washington (intersection within 50 ft of the bush that I found) seemed a major thoroughfare for cars and drivers seemed very focused on the road and traffic signals. The shops on the block had low traffic in and out but the smell of food has constantly present.

The Launchpad Planning Session

I tend to enjoy opportunities to talk to strangers and discover people in what they share and expose. So I was pretty confident that I wanted to perform an action and, if the public inquires about my action, I want to tell them what I am doing and have a conversation. I decided to try wordstreams as a brainstorm exercise to discover the intervention that I wanted to perform. I started by trying to capture the energy of the memory of Bush Man making me aware in a Public Space:

Zoned Out



But the list dead-ended there. I felt that line of thought was a bit judgmental and preachy. Besides the intervention, if succesful, will address the energy of capturing attention. So I went to the place discovery as a source for the wordstream:






economic collapse


piles (* at this moment in the wordsteam, I became aware of the leaves and debris on the sidewalks)
sweeping into piles

tending to the egg

tending to the nest


guarding the nest

guarding the young

parental supervision

authoritarian state



chained to the house

staying close to home





exhaustive cleaning

By this time, it became clear to me that issues of domesticity were on my mind. The idea of perform routine cleaning rituals in public were the path that I wanted to take. My initial ideas were to demarcate an area on the street and around the berm of the bush. Then I would clean the area of its debris to see if it made a perceived difference to the surrounding areas. I was mindful that I would need to figure out a costume but I was not sure what yet. I thought I would need to bring some tools for the performance and listed a broom, a rake, and a bag. I also listed an egg since I wanted to bring attention to the bush that sent me in this direction.

Workshop Group Feedback 

The group feedback was very useful. I had wondered if I wanted to literally take on the avatar of bird for the performance. I did not vocalize that to the group in my concept pitch but they suggested it. They suggested bringing attention to the nest. Ed asked, if after I cleaned up the area, would I occupy the nest? I definitely considered it. I asked about the costume. Suggestions included bird-like, beak, attaching debris, branches and leaves as I cleaned up. It was also suggested that I create a tool from the debris to clean up the debris. Finally, Jessica suggested that I use my wordstream and sweep those words around.


Post-Workshop Day 1 Mulling and Discussing with My Wife

I shared all of these events and feedback with my wife as I try to plan for the performance tomorrow. She helps me to connect some underlying aspects of my current preoccupation with domesticity, its intersection of my previous work about making the private public, my ongoing question about the role men should play in home and family life, questions of privilege, and my concerns with the current political climate in our home state. This conversation occurred around me figuring out a costume. Additionally, she reminded me that I frequently write lists of concerns and anxieties as a way of acknowledgement and dismissal. So the idea of sweeping up words resonated. I would need to figure out a way to incorporate this. During this conversation, we also recalled the seasonal rituals in New Mexcio of Zozobra and El Kookooee. In these rituals, crowds of people are invited to write down their fears and anxieties and collectively those concerns are stuffed into giant effigies to burn in public. We are currently in the season of Zozobra and El Kookooee.

The Activity

The title of my piece is Tidy.

I will perform the intervention on October 30, 2013 in a demarcated area of sidewalk and the bermed bush on Elm Street about 50 feet from the intersection at Elm and Washington from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

I will dress in a formal business suit.

I will bring a broom an a black marker.

I will tidy the demarcated area of its debris by building a nest of debris in the bush.

I will occupy the nest and write a list of my concerns and anxieties onto individual leaves and cast them from the nest one at a time.

Once I have cast out the concerns and anxieties from my nest, I will destroy the leaves by milling them from edge to edge of the demarcation.