Atlanta Trifecta: an interview with Daniel Osborne

FALSE: What is interesting to you about scratch offs?

Daniel Osborne: I don't know. I guess it's like they're completely worthless and I take this interest in things that other people don't want at all. I guess it's kind of a personal link to the person that played it. You get to see how their hand moved or if they scratch off the entire ticket or if they know exactly where the numbers are, then you can tell they play it all the time. Sometimes you can tell whether they're right handed or left handed.

FALSE: You contracted to paint from a JPEG of one of the altered lottery tickets, one that you are also painting?

DO: They've been working on it for two months. I've been working on a painting from the same .jpeg for a little bit longer, and they send me images of their progress and I'll send them back diagrams saying a certain line needs to be straighter. They finish pretty fast but I'm kind of nitpicking. It's this guy named Ou Li Ming or Jason York. That's his American name. I asked them to take a picture of the guy who's painting it and tell me his story.

FALSE: Why are you paying someone to paint the same painting as you? What do you plan to do with them when they're both finished? Is there something to gain in the experience of painting it yourself?

DO: I haven't really looked at them side by side yet. I don't know. I think it might have cost the same for them to do it. It's like $80. It's 36" x 45". I did stray from the jpeg I made, so I guess it's more than just turning pixels into paint of the same color, so yeah, I guess I couldn't really have the same experience. When I start to do it, I react to it.

FALSE: Is it their relationship to chance or money, or the design and look of the tickets that you are most interested in?

DO: Both the look and the game feel kind of escapist or something. I guess I can relate to that. If you had all this money, it could potentially change everything or something, but it's sort of like immature or helpless or something, but it seems kind of honest at the same time, acting for that desire. I heard this story of all these lunch ladies who won. They didn't quit their jobs or anything, they were still lunch ladies. I guess they still spent the money and stuff but that sort of disproves my theory about someone who wants a dramatic change. I guess you sort of think that if you have problems with money, if you had a bunch the problems would go away, but that's not true because you just get new problems like worrying about people stealing the money and you wouldn't have to work, but what are you going to do? I am interested in the psyche of the lottery player.

FALSE: Where do you find the tickets?

DO: These are always on the ground…Under a bridge, on the railroad tracks. I will find like $200 worth of lottery tickets on the railroad tracks in one spot.

FALSE: Which railroad tracks?

DO: Probably any railroad tracks. Under bridges on railroad tracks, it's a sure thing you'll find tickets there. In the woods next to the railroad, and of course behind gas stations. You can find a little stash where someone hid out and did a bunch of lottery tickets.

FALSE: Is it like a drug?

DO: Yeah, it's like this binge people go on or something when they buy like $200 worth of tickets and do them really fast. I haven't seen this, but I can just imagine it, the way that they're scattered about or torn into 20 pieces, like out of anger that they lost…If you see a spot where someone is living or hiding out in the woods or something, they'll have a bunch of (losing) lottery tickets.

FALSE: Do people always throw lottery tickets on the ground? Do they ever use trash cans?

DO: People that are on foot tend to litter their lottery tickets. The littering doesn't bother me. Sometimes when I'm picking stuff up, people say that's a good thing that you're doing, but I'm not trying to keep Atlanta beautiful or anything. I'd be bored without litter, if there was nothing to look at or pick up. It's like sharing. It's revealing…Like plastic cups and lottery tickets and Newport cigarette packs. They're always hanging out in the same packs.

FALSE: Just Newports?

DO: Camels and Marlboros are a close second. People say when you're looking for one thing, that's what you'll find. Maybe that's my thing. Newport, Jumbo Bucks a red plastic cup. That's like the trifecta of Atlanta trash. l love those three things.

FALSE: Do you ever stand behind people in line when they are buying lottery tickets?

DO: There are a lot of people who I see buying tickets who do it like it's a part of them. They've just got a lot of style and they'll do things like call them "my scratch offs"

FALSE: Isn't this a cliché? Gold rush… movies about finding money, rags to riches?

DO: Hmm...maybe. I remember when I was younger imagining what I would buy with massive amounts of money. I think it's an exercise that everyone performs. The explanation for the riches in my fantasy was a career as a professional basketball and football player and cartoonist (simultaneously). It seems like there has to be a universal avenue for fulfillment of that desire to gain obscene amounts of money.

FALSE: Is there anything interesting to you about the design of a lottery ticket?

DO: It's like a lot of designs we see, all the lines are clean, everything is balanced, dollar signs and other symbols are identically replicated. It's just perfect for me to see that kind of ideal design destroyed: rained on, ran over by cars, dirty. I think about what's going to happen to places like gas stations after humans aren't able to keep them clean anymore, they'll be decrepit in the same way.

FALSE: You live in Athens?

DO: I moved to Athens in December. I lived in Atlanta before that. I went back last week and did the flâneur, walking around with my backpack thing. I sort of miss that. I was at Five Points MARTA station and I looked around and I was the only white person in the station. I forgot what that was like. I guess I don't know what that's like but I hadn't noticed that in a while.

FALSE: Is it mostly white in Athens?

DO: Yeah, at least around downtown.

FALSE: Do you find most of the tickets in Atlanta?

DO: MARTA stations and bus stops, that's another place for lottery tickets. But I'm not opposed to looking in the trash for tickets. I've done that a little. If I'm dumpster diving, I'm usually looking for food. There's no shortage of tickets, so I usually just take the ones that come to me.

FALSE: Do you ever play the lottery?

DO: I've never bought a ticket. My mom bought me a ticket once because she saw I was collecting them. I scratched off everything except the numbers. It left these blocks covering the numbers. It could be a winner but I'll never know. I do benefit from people who play the lottery though. I get the HOPE Scholarship which is funded by the lottery.

FALSE: What school do you go to?

DO: I just transferred from Georgia State to U.G.A.

FALSE: What do you study?

DO: Digital media art: Internet art, video art.

FALSE: Is that different than graphic design? Is it more art-based or job-based?

DO: It's definitely not job based, because everyone's like, "What are we going to do?" if you don't want to be an art teacher or go to grad school. I might change my major.

FALSE: Do you think lottery players feel guilty or ashamed?

DO: Yeah, it seems like it. I guess the woods is where people go to do bad things, or like under a bridge. They must just see how it's a waste of money, and they say I'm not going to do this any more, and maybe they thought they were going to win the first time they spent $100. I never thought about it before, that it's something to be ashamed of.