Found occupies a fascinating space between voyeurism and social critique. "You love that feeling when you see a notebook on a bench in a park, because you know you're going to get to know this person," says Rothbart from the stage, and the found materials contain their share of personal quarrels and love notes, often brought up short somehow. "I love you, but things have not been the same since we found out we were related," says one. Other notes are more akin to the small Readings section items in Harper's magazine. Rothbart finds people, like a police officer confronting antiwar demonstrators in San Francisco, trapped in skeins of officialese and other discourses of power that seem ridiculous when held up to the light of day.
In the end, though, Rothbart is sympathetic toward the people whom he has caught with his unusual kind of candid camera, even if he is often bemused by them. He hunts for and finds things that we can be snarky about, but at some level we recognize ourselves in the crazy stories he finds. A lot of the found items, interestingly, originated with children; they give us an odd little perspective on how they turn into the crazy people we are. Found magazine is Ann Arbor's latest homegrown national phenomenon, and the Michigan show should be a triumphant homecoming of sorts.
[Review published November 2005]