A curious Paseo visitor approaches. “Are you part of The Paseo?” he asks.
“Yes! ” says Claire. “We’re number 19, would you like to have a listen?” She hands him the headphones.
It’s Friday, Sept. 26th in Taos, New Mexico, just a few minutes after 4pm and there is tangible excitement in the air.Volunteers are rushing around or expectantly waiting at the info window to help with enquiries. Something is happening in Taos that has never happened before; the first ever “Paseo” is beginning and Claire and Anna’s “If you’d like to….Taos Off-Grid“ is on the move!
The man puts on the headphones and inclines his head, listening, a finger poised ready to press a button when the inclination strikes. He smiles and settles in to listen for a while, enjoying the experience.
“If you’d like to let cactus fruit dribble down your chin, please press five. If you’d like to apagar las luces para siempre, please press six. If you’d like to inhabit the wilderness of your dreams, please press seven. If you’d like to….” The man presses 7 on the keypad to confirm his choice.
“You’ve gotta hear this! And it’s SOLAR POWERED!” he calls to his wife, who is gathering info at The Paseo info booth. Part pet, part machine, the”If you’d like to….” Unit has a private message for Claire.
“My new solar panels seem like they’re working well!” it says.
“Anything else?” says Claire, eager to hear more.
“I love being centre stage, people listening to me pressing my buttons. I live for moments like this, I’m thriving on the buzz.! And I like the way the roads are laid out here in Taos, I can relate to that. But am I all terrain enough for these wonky sidewalks? And what will happen if we take a dirt side-road?”
Another visitor approaches and hesitantly puts on the headphones. “Is it working?” She asks. “Nothing is happening when I push the buttons!?”
Claire is glad that no one else can hear the unit’s next utterance.
“That part is up to you, silly! You DO HAVE an imagination DON’T YOU!? I can’t be expected to do everything, can I?”
“Yeah, Its working!” Claire reassures the woman, “You see, in this piece low tech meets high tech and the high tech part is your imagination! The wooden buttons are there for you to physically register your choice, they don’t do anything to the options soundtrack. Your imagination is the thing that makes it ‘work’ and the most important part of the piece!”
A light comes on in the woman’s head and she smiles. “Oh I see,” She says. “Cool. Interesting idea!”
At this location, people are a little wary and are slow to interact, so Claire approaches passers by with an upbeat “Would you like a listen?”
Some do stop, but some hurry on their way. “No thanks,” they say.
Anna across the pond is lying awake in her cozy bed in Devon.”What’s happening at the Paseo? I wonder if it’s busy?”
“Time for a new location,” says Claire to the Unit, as the two of them make their way to the opposite end of The Paseo. By the time they reach the festival’s North end, The Paseo is in full swing.
“This is more like it!” says Claire. At the new site near #4 on the map, Axle Contemporary Gallery piece, “The Potato,” Claire and the mobile unit are literally “mobbed” by eager participants who all want to listen.
The Unit thrives on attention. Just as more people really begin arriving en mass, it whispers to Claire between listeners, “I love community! I want to start conversations and set imaginations whirring!”
Claire and the Unit are fascinated that each individual has a different experience of and reaction to their piece. Lots of folks chuckle and stare off into the distance while listening.
“I want to do all the options!” Exclaims a pregnant Mama who comes up to listen. “My favorite one is, “If you’d like to plant a forest garden!?” she beams as she repeats what she has heard.
Now its the turn of a young child; she is enthusiastic to try it, but then says “It’s too fast! I can’t hear the options! Mama I want you to listen too… erkkk… yau…” She dissolves into tears and leaves questioning her parents about the piece.
Later a group of kids comes along and the supervising grown-up has to enforce a time limit for listening so that everyone gets a turn. “But I haven’t gotten to hear all the options yet!” protests one child when it’s the next kid’s turn.
One man listens for a very long time, fully engaged with the piece, but he presses very few buttons. “Nice piece,” he says. I had to listen really carefully to find some options that I wanted to do.”
There are so many people on the streets and not everyone gets to listen. “Hmm I wonder what that is over there?” says a man as his eyebrows lift. “What do you think people are listening to?” says another.
There is much speculation. Some people want to experience the piece, but can’t locate it because it is “roving.”
“I’m so glad we happened to find you! I really wanted to see your piece but didn’t know where to look for you!” exclaims a friend of Claire’s.
Claire laughs, “It is all about being in the right place at the right time. People just have to happen upon us. That is part of the experience the piece!”
“If you’d like to be Off-grid all the way please press….” says the Unit and then adds under its breath, “I certainly am!”
Watch the “If you’d like to…” Mobile Unit SPEAKING Video here.