Interactions pt 1 - Book swap

International Book Swap

“Hello, I’m looking for people to participate in a huge, international book exchange. You can be anywhere in the world. All you have to do is buy your favourite book (just one) and send it to a stranger”

Your favourite book is such a personal thing. It’s a window into the person you are. What you enjoy, what you relate to. 

I’ve connected with 6 strangers from London to Sheffield to Hong Kong. I will never meet these people but I feel like I know them. I know what makes them laugh, how they’ve coped with grief, how they relax. I’ve seen part of who they are, without seeing them.

Tooting Bec Book Swap

I had an interaction with someone on the northern line to Modern at 2am the other day. There was someone off his head on pills that kept us entertained for a few stops before getting off. Having started a conversation with this man we all continued talking, I learnt where they were from, what their ex was currently messaging them and a slightly random conversation about gymnastics. I never got their name, they’ll remain a stranger but for 10 minutes we were bonded by location. I wrote a thank you note to her in one of the books at Tooting Bec station and left it for someone else to interact with. 

Interactions pt 1 - Initial research

Relational Aesthetics

“A set of artistic practices which take their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space” 

- Nicholas Bourriaud

Art inspired by human relations, interactions and the social context they happen in.

As artists, Bourriaud saw us as facilitators not makers. Art is information exchanged between the artist and the viewers. It is an interaction, a connection between people. 

  • “Artistic activity is a game, whose forms, patterns and functions develop and evolve according to periods and social contexts” Page 11

Much like human relationships and experiences they change, you change, we don’t see the world in the same way. 

  • “So the essence of humankind is purely trans-individual, made up of bonds that link individuals together in social forms which are invariably historical” 

If humankind is purely about interactions then are you alive if you don’t? Or is the definition of interaction broader than what we normally assume? 

Mathew Sawyer

I attended a talk by Mathew Sawyer, tattooist and documentary artist, last year. I was inspired by the way his work often revolves around people without him actually coming into contact with them. 

  • “Cans roll under seats on buses and up and down the aisle”

This was a project where he collected cans from buses, painted them and put them back on the bus for others to enjoy. This was inspired by his love for the sounds they made when rolling and he wanted others to appreciate them too. 

  • “Someone to share my life with” 

A series of photos and text documenting his very simple relationship with an old neighbour. He only knew him through the shoes that were left out every night so he changed them ever so slightly as an interaction with this person.

  • “Between you ,me, and the post”

When you can’t speak to anyone how do you get things off your chest? Sawyer posted his news and his feeling about his girlfriends pregnancy to the furthest address from him. 

  • “It all came out in the wash”

A series of notes snuck into the pockets of strangers to be discovered later. Accompanied with a photo of the stranger. A very simple way to connect.

Philippe Parreno

“Central to Parreno’s practice is his quest for an ultimate form of communication capable of transcending language”


Parreno works through a variety of mediums, including sculpture, film, performance and drawing. He creates spaces the viewers can interact with and creates a safety that links you with other people. Questioning the boundaries between reality and fiction. The spaces become separated from the real world so anything seems possible.

Gillian Wearing

“Gillian Wearing is a contemporary British artist whose conceptually driven photographs and videos investigate dynamics and voyerism in everyday life”

Her work is noted as fitting into the Relational Aesthetics movement, especially with works such as ‘Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say.’ (1992-1993). During this project Wearing asked people on the street to write down what they were thinking at the time and then photographed them. Her work also involved a lot of prosthetic masks. In her self portraits these created an eerie illusion. You were seeing her but slightly detached, like you were one step removed from the connection.

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