Slaphappy 

Funny where an idea might strike. Missoula artists Caroline Peters and Ben Bloch, and UM grad student Alex Shapiro, were eating at Applebee’s when they first came up with the seed of the idea that grew into last Friday’s roving art performance, Slap Booth, on Higgins Ave.

“It’s like looking at the Jerry Springer Show,” says Bloch of the performance’s startling, comic nature.

Except that far more thought and far less advertising (“We didn’t advertise because we wanted to take people by surprise,” says Peters) went into Slap Booth.

An exploration of consensual violence in the public domain, Slap Booth was billed as “a project that gives the public a chance to experience the feelings of an intense and emotionally charged exchange without the emotional investment.” For one dollar, an interested participant could “enter into a contract with a ‘slapper’ who will publicly slap them across the face.”

On Friday, about 40 people (roughly a fourth of whom were women) were interested. A Feruqi’s bartender, a UM faculty member, a married couple holding hands, and a girl outside the Ox shouting, “This is the best thing that’s happened to me all day,” were among the participants who forked over a buck for a hard smack while crowds watched.

For slappers, Peters enlisted two women to dress in metallic silver and gold shirts that “almost looked like liquid,” says Peters, “like the quickness of a slap.” The women carried a parfait of multi-colored lotions, which they applied to their hands before each slap, and some customers asked the women to yell at them as well:

“Never bring that in the house again!”

“Remember you’re always half your mother!”

One of the slappers, Tara Keller (who works for Habitat for Humanity), ran into a customer the next day at the Farmer’s Market. “He was one who’d asked me to slap him as hard as I could,” she says. “I asked him if he was OK, and he said he was.”

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