On Saturday, June 10th, the Universal Silver Platter opened in downtown Oakland. For just one day, we handed people whatever they needed or desired most on a silver platter.
FIGMENT is a participatory art festival that takes place in a few cities across the US. Artists, designers, and entertainers come together to create fun, creative pop-up experiences open to the public. My friend Josh L suggested the festival, and my friend Josh H joined the project when we decided we wanted to jump on the opportunity to create a fun, playful experience for our community.
After a quick brainstorming session, we riffed off the idea of using an actual silver platter that I had to symbolize the current political discourse around entitlements. Rather than having privileged, smug, politicians telling people they should just work harder, and that they don’t deserve or even need assistance with education, healthcare, or housing, we decided that for one day, you DO deserve to have whatever you need “handed to you on a silver platter”.
Our team quickly prototyped a nail board to collect the collective story of what people needed and wanted on installation day. We dubbed it the “USP Data Accumulator” to fit with our theme of the Silver Platter being like a government bureau or information desk. The idea was to have each participant choose a colored rubber band based on the theme of their wish or desire, then attach it to the nail board based on their relationship with the person who granted their wish and the outcome of their wish.
Participants were invited to express a need, wish or desire. We asked visitors to fulfil one another’s wishes, and if a single visitor came up, a “U.S.P. Technician” (one of the designers) would draw their wish. Once the wish was represented graphically or with words, the wish grantor would hand the completed wish to the recipient on one of our shiny silver platters.
Finally, the person who had just had their wish handed to them on a silver platter would add a rubber band to the data accumulator.
There were quite a few other fun installations happening that day in Oakland’s Mosswood park:
And by the end of the installation day, we had so many rubber bands stretched on our nailboard, that they started popping off!
We had a lot of fun playing with the visitors to the U.S.P. booth, and had a number of interesting and illuminating conversations. Some of our visitors wished for something quite meaningful and serious – a healthy body, a child, family reconciliation. Others wished for something more lighthearted like a goat to eat their neighbor’s ivy, or a fried chicken sandwich. One of our younger visitors had the following, slightly creepy wish:
It was a day well spent, facilitating conversations and granting wishes to our friends and neighbors.