For this performance I served as a crossing guard along the busy stretch of Mount Royal Avenue where a month prior I had set up my “Visionary Crosswalks – MTR” installation”. VXW-MTR Crossing Guard was a playful experiment in helping pedestrians cross the dangerous thoroughfare while also exploring some of the hidden behavioral constructs of that public area. I was not impersonating anyone or acting as a character, but rather genuinely serving as a direct action, volunteer crossing guard. I am myself during such performances, and am prepared to face any sort of consequences my actions may provoke.
I served as a crossing guard for approximately one hour while fellow artist Jeni Mattingly so graciously shot video of my every move. The reactions I had were varied, and I was mildly surprised by the slow pace of people crossing mid-block. I ended up spending a little over half of the time hanging out in the median strip while looking out for potential jay-walkers to help. I would say that of the people I did manage to help across the street, half seemed to ignore me, a quarter were outwardly supportive and grateful, and the rest seemed lest than trusting to tried to avoid me altogether.
Eventually I was stopped by a MICA police officer who was concerned for my safety. He made it clear I did not have approval from the school to be a crossing guard and said I needed to stop. I tried to respond with a positive attitude, noting that I had sought permission from the school only to discover that they “couldn’t help me out because they do not own the street or sidewalks along Mount Royal Avenue.” The officer suggested that I do my thing at a real crosswalks, and not mid block on a busy street. I said that I was just following the pedestrian traffic, and offered him a compromise. I asked if it would be okay for me to simply let people cross during gaps in traffic, as we usually do, while I simply “go through the motions” of being a crossing guard. The officer did not seemed convinced, but could not say no as I had pointed out that this was not the schools jurisdiction.