Firstly, I should let you know that I am as serious as a dinosaur! Complimentary Caravan is my latest community arts project. It provides people with a space to consider what it is to give and also receive a compliment.
I tested out this idea at the Castlemaine Village Festival in June and got a great response.
A week before the event, I recorded ‘compliments’ at the local library from passersby who were asked to contribute a spoken compliment about someone they admire. The result was a beautiful ten minute soundtrack of heartfelt words of admiration and gratitude - overflowing with sincerity as they were all spoken about a real person.
Written compliments were also collected through a local community Facebook group. I wrapped up these printed compliments with a pistachio nut - bonbon style! A ‘complimentary nut’! (I couldn’t resist that joke!)
On the the day of the event, I set up in a caravan and welcomed guests to snuggle inside and soak up the soundtrack. It was a very touching experience for listeners with several people admitting to crying (happy tears!) while listening. Hearing the compliments has an interesting effect on people. Even though you know the compliments are not for you, you can still enjoy them as if they are.
I am now fine-tuning this idea and approaching councils and festivals (Melbourne and regional Victoria) about creating a Complimentary Caravan for different events. The emphasis will always be on working with compliments collected from that local community. It could work with the general public or could also focus on a particular sector of the community - e.g. disengaged teenagers; school students, etc. At lot of research has been done on the benefits of compliments and I am interested in the mental health aspect of this work as well as seeing it as an ‘arts project’.
I have designed a small caravan on a 6x4trailer that is currently being built by a friend. I will paint it and add comfortable seating, lighting and speakers.
Funded by Melbourne (August 2016)