When I read about Ruth Kaiser's Internet-based conceptual art project, I had to, well, smile. The Spontaneous Smiley Project combines digital photography, social networking, and just pure goofiness into an undeniably appealing, feel-good communal art project.
Kaiser photographs smiley faces that she finds in everyday objects like a slice of bread, a rusty old sink, or even a rock. In February of this year, she launched a project that calls for people to take pictures of smileys they find and upload them to her Web site or Facebook page. She's collected thousands of photos from dozens of countries across the globe and has a self-published coffee table book and a gallery show opening November 21 in Berkeley, Calif.
In an Oakland Tribune interview, Kaiser says the project has taken off because digital cameras have made photographing and sharing smiley faces so much easier. "With a digital camera, suddenly I had the ability to show (people) what I was seeing and then people would say 'I get it.'"
In fact, on her site, she describes an example of how people have been drawn into her project:
One day as I was crouched with my camera in hand over Spilled Soda on the Sidewalk Smiley, a man came a long and asked, "What in the world are you taking a picture of?"
I showed him the Smiley. He smiled. I smiled. He went on his way.
About two minutes later, he came running back in my direction.
"Quick. Bring your camera. I found one."