Ze Frank is a very funny man. He’s also an extremely sweet and caring guy. And while his talk at TED features some of his classic collaborative web performances – the Earth sandwich, YoungMeNowMe – most of the talk is about recent projects that focus on our need to feel and to be felt.
The star of the show is Ray, whose song, written to help his daughter cope with the stresses and pressures of her job, begins, “I’m about to whip somebody’s ass.” Ze’s fans began to remix the song, which he compiled into an album and promised to deliver it to Ray… if his fans could fin him. They did, two weeks later, and Ze flew to St. Louis to meet Ray, who turns out to be a preacher, and who was amused that his gesture for his daughter had gone viral.
Ze tells us that there’s a real challenge with technology that’s supposed to connect us – lots of people who build this technology are not good at connecting with people. He’s hoping to do better.
One project – A Childhood Walk – asks you to remember a walk you took as a child over and over again, take the walk again in Google street view and post a photo and the memory associated with it.
Another – from 52 to 48 with love – urged polite messages of reconcilliation between the left and right in the US in the wake of the 2008 elections. Right wing blogs concluded that this was condescending and Ze received reams of hate mail. He built a collage of some of the angriest bits, printed it on paper and asked people to fold them into “angrigami“, creating something beautiful out of this strong emotion.
Recent projects include a pair of songs, a beautiful “scared mantra” for a child who has trouble sleeping, and a “chillout song” for a woman named Laura going through a hard time. The song ended up involving the participation of hundreds of singers, who joined in telling her, “Hey, you’re okay, you’ll be fine, just breathe.” It’s a good message for all of us.