UPDATE: Read the story in Andy's words on this subsequent post
Last September, I blogged about a swap box story: after repairing a swap box on Elgin street (a box which I would repair again), I had met a man at Bridgehead whose life had been touched by a cheap silicon bracelet I'd left in a swapbox.
We happened to meet again tonight (coincidentally sitting at adjacent tables), and thirteen months later, Andy Williams is still wearing his bracelet:
We talked for a bit, and he reiterated his story: he used to weigh 290 pounds, and the bracelet helped motivate him to lose the weight. Whenever he felt like cutting short an exercise regime, he'd look at the bracelet and remember that "hey, I count!"
He used to have a few medical issues that were either caused or complicated by his weight, which are now under control or gone. He's involved in a host of different sports and physical activities, and he's the fastest runner on his baseball team.
I have difficulty appreciating many forms of art (for one, you can't take photos in most galleries), but swap boxes are a form of interactive art that leaves you with a free souvenir. Like tweenbots, swap boxes are out in the open, vulnerable, depending on the trust of passersby to not only not destroy it, but also to help fulfill its function. A swap box that survives for months is a source of community pride. As Andy's story shows, the interactive element provides an opportunity for the unexpected to occur, for someone's life to be touched. That's not just art, that's a public service.
Now that El Maks is in Montreal, there aren't so many swap boxes in Ottawa. It's time the rest of us pick up the slack!
PS: Dachau is in Germany