Meet Death Bear, the Brooklyn bear who heals broken hearts. Or, at least, takes your mind off the problem.
Brooklyn's got a lot of stuff going on. Illegal beekeeping. Fancy cocktails. Roving dance parties. Kids named after jazz musicians. And the performance-art group Club Animals, the members of which dress up like fauna and do kinda-sinister stuff (and, in turn, are a reporter's dream come true). In the group's own words, "We are best known for the Free Bouncy Rides, Candy Crack Delivery Service, and Bunny Butterfly Kisses." They introduced the Death Bear "piece" (as performed by artist Nate Hill) late last year. The Death Bear is a dude in a bear suit who comes to your house and takes away stuff to bring you closure; sort of like the Salvation Army, but in a bear suit. Again, to quote Club Animals,
We all have someone or something we would rather just forget. Things fall apart. Love hurts. Dreams die. But when you summon Death Bear to your door, you can rest assured that help has come. At first you may be intimidated by his stature and color (7 feet tall with a hard, black bear head, black jumpsuit, and black boots), but absorbing the memories of others is a dark art, and Death Bear must present himself appropriately for this solemn duty. Death Bear will take things from you that trigger painful memories and stow them away in his cave where they will remain forever allowing you to move on with your life. Give him an ex's clothes, old photos, mementos, letters, etc. Death Bear is here to assist you in your time of tragedy, heartbreak, and loss. Let Death Bear help you, and absorb your pain into his cave.
Anyway, in case you were wondering who uses Death Bear's services (he says dozens have), the New York Times's Modern Love column provides one answer when the author lends support to a friend post-breakup. They assemble letters, a candle, a blazer and present them to the sinister costumed bear who appears at her door.
Diana pulled herself together enough that she could now speak. "What do you do with the stuff you collect?"
"It goes in my cave," he replied.
"Are you going to do an art installation with it? You should."
"No. I think there are a lot of people who wouldn't feel comfortable seeing their stuff on display."
"Huh," she said. "I guess."
There was silence.
Then Death Bear spoke. "I should be going."
"Um, O.K. Well, thank you for coming, Death Bear."
Diana, the young woman in question, apparently finds the process cathartic. As for how Death Bear feels after absorbing your pain? From his FAQ page: "He is solitary and has never experienced a relationship, so he may also be confused by your emotional trauma." Also on the FAQ is another issue:
Q: Does Death Bear care about helping people?"
A: Yes and no. If there were something else for him to do, he would do it. But there is only his cave and its powers. He is a bit like a hoarder whose items disappear.
Given that, by his own admission, Death Bear's acquisitions have included used underpants, this is suffering for one's art indeed. But despite the oddity of summoning a black-clad hipster to scourge one's pain, it's hard to argue with this review, from a WNYC reader:
Death Bear came to my house on Valentines morning. His texts and willingness to travel are like having a boyfriend who cares, he's pleasant and leaves quickly... which helps with any potential embarrassment depending on the item you give him. Thank you, Death Bear.
Need To get over your ex? Call Death Bear [MSNBC]
Death Bear Will See You Now [NY Times]
Date With Death Bear [WNYC]
The Death Bear Will Take Away Your Painful Memories [PSFK]
When Death Bear Calls [WNYC]