When most of us go looking for love, we don't usually make a billboard and post it for all the world to see. That, however, is exactly what the 26-year-old woman behind the Looking For project in San Francisco has done: She's posted fliers all over the city as well as commissioned a mural in the hopes that she'll find a boyfriend. But the project isn't just a creative way to find a mate; it's also a public art project with a powerful message. It asks us to start really thinking about what we ourselves are looking for — and why.
The design and hand-lettering for Looking For was done by Matthew Wyne, who has also been the public face of the project. The woman behind it, you see, wants to remain anonymous; as Wynn explained it to a passerby in a video he created about the project, she wants people to call her because of the messages themselves — not because of what her public image is, not because of what she looks like, or anything else. On his website, he details how the whole thing came into being: “The project began with fliers posted around San Francisco detailing the specific things this woman is seeking, like 'Someone to Cuddle and Rant With,' or 'Someone to Let Me Eat the Last Cheez-It,'” he wrote. When she found a 50-foot wall, though, she moved beyond the fliers and started thinking about making a mural. She found Wyne through a mutual friend, who then worked with her to bring the mural to life. Wynn also hand-lettered new fliers to match the look of the mural.
They went with gray-on-black for its color scheme to keep the mural understated. In addition to making it an “unobtrusive artifact that complimented the Lower Haight neighborhood where it lived,” this design also made the mural “something that rewarded the people who are actively looking at the world around them.” Furthermore, the use of map-like elements — gridded borders and compass roses — “[underpin] the fact that this project is very much about walking the city of San Francisco.” How it all works is simple: People call the phone number on the fliers and mural; the woman behind it talks to them; and sometimes she goes on dates with them.
Reactions to it have varied. Some people really seem to "get" it; others are a little surprised by it; and still others have some insightful observations about it. Wyne's video documents some of them; here are a few of the highlights:
1. “It's kind of weird.”
I can see how the idea of looking for love through a mural would be a little jarring at first; it's not typically the way we date. But what about it is any weirder than, say, posting a digital image of yourself on an electronic space anyone in the world can access and flicking a tiny little screen left or right until you find someone you like? The Looking For website describes the project as seeking “love in an analogue world”; in that respect, it's almost more akin to a personals ad printed in a newspaper — just on a much larger scale.
2. “I thought it was an ad for a startup or something like that.”
That's also perhaps understandable — although I'm not sure what it's saying about us that our first assumption upon seeing something like this is, “Oh, it must be an advertisement.” To be fair, it is sort of an ad — just not the type you might think it is at first glance.
3. “That's not actually their phone number, is it?”
It is. If you call it, you will reach the person looking for a boyfriend who is behind the whole thing. As this guy put it, “That's pretty bold.”
4. “It's more personable than online dating.”
When asked whether or not the mural feels different than online dating, this is what the fellow here answered. What's even more interesting, though, is his explanation of why it feels different. “There are less ways to hide,” he said. “People seem to create personas online, but I think it's more genuine to do it like this.”
The Looking For woman hasn't found the right guy yet, but I wonder if maybe that's not even the point. As they say, it's not always the destination that matters — it's how you get there.
Images: Matthew Wyne/Vimeo (6)