For this art experience I thought I’d talk about an involuntary ethnography I did earlier this winter, rather than recreate an artificial one. My friends and I were staying in a cabin in Running Springs (an micro-town slightly south of Lake Arrowhead). It was early January, and there was a huge snowstorm (we knew it would happen beforehand, but decided to go anyways). It had been snowing all day, and eventually the power went out. It got dark around 5 PM. We had no electricity, light, cell service, nothing. The only sources of warmth/ light we had were: the stove, candles, a flashlight, and the fireplace.
I would say my experience was fairly easy because I had 6 people to entertain me (I suppose that’s kind of cheating). We spent a solid two hours just playing a game similar to 20 questions. The group comes up with a vague object/word, and the remaining person has to ask questions until they figure out what it is. It sounds like it would get boring pretty fast, but watching your friend try to guess “Cow utter” as the remaining of your friends proceed to laugh at his frustration doesn’t get old. We also told ghost/paranormal stories that we’ve personally experienced. Which (shockingly) turned out to be a bad idea seeing how we were in an old dark cabin, in the middle of the woods, out of touch with the rest of civilization.
The only thing that got frustrating was cooking. Cooking for 7 people with no lights is pretty challenging. A lot of us got burns because we couldn’t see the grease exploding out of the pan. But the food turned out good so.. worth it. I also became aware of how often I pick up my phone just for simulation, I’d check my phone every few minutes, only to find nothing.
I personally find the dark very peaceful. Not having electricity also made everything so quiet. You could really hear your surroundings; the fireplace, the snow falling outside. I definitely slept better than usual, and on the ground!
Electricity is great yes, but it also kind of numbs us. We all have shorter attention spans, and need to be constantly entertained. This ethnography forced us to entertain ourselves in a more memorable, intimate way. If the power hadn’t gone out, we’d probably just get drunk and watch a movie. But what came out of 7, 20 years old’s sitting in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, ended up being one of my fondest memories.
Something I’m trying to do right now is not use my phone in bed. Go to sleep immediately, wake up immediately. So far I am failing miserably. Which is unfortunate because I’d get a lot more sleep, and not be late to everything.