Francis Palazzolo’s SelfOthering Shift Experiments began in the Summer of 2016 and continue to the present, they take place in Times Square. He engages passersby to participate in the formation art by sharing intimate conversation and collaborative portraiture. With this combined aesthetic Palazzolo alters object and exchange values towards social bonds at the vortex of Capitalism. He started out on 42nd Street sidewalk between 7th & 8th Avenues. As Palazzolo learned about the Times Square district and witnessed the impact of visitor participation, he moved the experiments to the main plaza, eventually in front of the Nasdaq Showroom at the corner of 45th and Broadway.
During an encounter Palazzolo experiments with how to negotiate the foot traffic; how to reach-out to passersby, and how to arrange his practice to improve the relationships with participants. Sitting down to talk and draw was his first approach, so he used a cart to hold art supplies, collapsible chairs and signage to facilitate the process. Up front he explains to participants that the drawings are free. Talking elicits drawing; in turn it solidifies the conversation. As Palazzolo and visitors to Times Square get attuned to one another the person drawing may shift. Stories, along with a pad of paper and drawing supplies go back and forth. Depending on the comfort of the visitor, participation includes making choices, filling-in, and/or leading the artwork. Videos document these experiments as he changed time of day, locations and seasons.
As Palazzolo moved the experiments around Times Square he learned from each encounter and tailored the work to the challenging conditions. The SelfOthering Shift Experiments are exhilarating, and may entail a lot of multi-tasking, certainly in Palazzolo’s role: amiable confidence to reach out, deafness for blocking-out the swirling chaos and slowing down the experience to an intimate encounter, mental focus and adroit dexterity to draw likenesses, patience to listen, empathy to inquire and care about another’s point of view, and reflection to speak about his beliefs. At the end of 2017, the NYPD made the rules clear: Palazzolo’s accessories are not allowed in the center of the Times Square Plaza, particularly during rush hour and at high volume spots. By early 2018, a summary for facilitating The SelfOthering Shift Experiments: stand face-to-face; pad in hand; supplies in pocket; no accessories on the ground; no signage; no donations; no need for permits.
Prior to The SelfOthering Shift Experiments, the idea & practice coagulated in 2016 while Palazzolo was organizing, curating and facilitating a series of participatory art shows at the Open Source gallery in Brooklyn. What started out as a mixture of good communication techniques and the “Exquisite Corpse” Surrealist game, turned into the intitial experiment of sharing intimate conversations and collaborating to make a portrait. From the onset, participants were blurring the conditions of dialogical art and object-based art.
Palazzolo honed his improvisational skills and open disposition by working as an artist-in-residence with vulnerable populations confronting social alienation in NYC for over 30 years. Another version of The SelfOthering Shift Experiments, titled SelfOthering Transitions is part of his current artist-in-residency at a safe haven and drop-in shelter for the homeless in the Bronx NY.