Sunday, April 27, 2008


Emily Hockaday

This project, though aesthetically fun and generally fun, also includes a lot of comments that pertain to the readings and discussions generated by our Neighborhood Narratives class. The process, the final product, and even the location have much to do with urban culture and how the public relates to, in, and around a space.
The process of leaving cameras out in the public to do with what they would was both fascinating in practice and in result. As we discussed in class, people behave differently when in private settings than when in the public eye. Since Megan and I did not actively pursue the public in order to get pictures, this became a somewhat private event between the random cameras and the public using them. We discovered that this made people more likely to be free with the cameras, and they weren’t wary of taking portraits or each other or themselves. We also witnessed people congregating around, and discussing the ghost cameras. According to Guy Debord, this is an irregular occurrence in the modern city. He says that “social relations become impossible,” however, the cameras seemed to make social relations more possible in this public domain where people usually ignore one another. At the same time, Guy Debord is somewhat right, as it seems people were more enthusiastic using the cameras on their own rather than with a stranger photographing them. We also put the cameras out in the public to see what creativity would occur when the public was left to their own devices with a tool. This is following somewhat in Debord’s ideals, as he said, “Our domain is thus the urban network, the natural expression of a collective creativity, capable of understanding the creative forces being released with the decline of a culture based on individualism. To our way of thinking, the traditional arts will no longer be able to play a role in the creation of the new environment to which we want to live.” When placing the cameras in Union Square, we were asking the public to individually take shots according to their thoughts on the city, but were also uniting them by making them part of a larger project. And by displaying the individually shot yet united images, we reflect back to the city their own images and views of this urban setting and how they fit into it.
The actual product also melds together a lot of different voices from this class. The photographs themselves, I believe, are a way of showing both Krzysztof Wodiczko’s vanquished, and allowing them a voice. These photographs are not of models, no one has made sure they are pretty enough, or are selling enough, or serve any purpose besides to show real human beings interacting in their space. Thus I believe them to be the vanquished: people who would not otherwise be displayed in a park. Also, allowing the cameras to lay around to any who would want to use them gave everyone (victors and vanquished alike) an opportunity to express themselves. I also see the photographs as depicting Union Square as one of Foucault’s heterotopias. It is a crossroads, truly. It was named after being a crossroads between Broadway (formerly Bloomingdale Ave) and Fourth Ave (formerly Bowery Road). Underneath, the subway also finds itself at a crossroad. Meanwhile, it is a small oasis for speakers, performers, merchants, and the general public. Our photographs show how diversely and interestingly the public uses this space as a means of getting away.
The audio we have assigned to our photographs adds another layer to the final product. It melds the history of Union Square to the pictures of the present, and, in researching the history, I have discovered, adds some tension between the two. As Guy Debord points out, urban settings, in the past have been active places for political rallying and even all-out uprising, but recently have become more drab. He says “…the streets have degenerated into highways, and leisure is commercialized and adulterated by tourism.” While researching the history of Union Square, I discovered that it once harbored political rallies dating back to the 1860s and going as late as the 1920s. Though it did host many vigils after 9/11, it has mostly fallen into a commercial slump. It is now most noted for the farmer’s market that it hosts, and the winter shopping. It also hosts many street venders, and local artists. Though it is still occasionally used as a voice for the vanquished, it has been a much more muted voice in recent history. This is a clear example of the fears of both Debord and Wodiczko. Hopefully the combination of our prints, and the history of what an active rallying point Union Square used to be will show that it still has that potential, and that the vanquished, and otherwise should use this space wisely, and not take this meeting of points as a novelty when it can do so much. I don’t mean to belittle the use of it as a heterotopia for the public, however, the park has a lot of currently unused potential.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Map

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Art

People gathered around one camera area--this specific corner of the park we found to be the most fruitful.

Megan and I left eight cameras (with notes attached and signs) in four places around Union Square. In our note, we asked passersby to take pictures with how they fit into NYC in mind.
We were a little nervous that it would end up a bust, and since there were also fundamentalist christians screaming words of hate over microphones AS we were leaving the cameras, it looked to be even more so.
It turned out, however, like so:
3 Cameras stolen
4 Cameras with ten or more pictures taken. (We decided to cut our losses and grab those)
1 Camera we left, as it still had a full roll of film.
So hopefully today in class, we'll have some pictures to look at!
Oh, and we also got Easter Egg fortunes :) which, I won't lie, was the extent of my Easter Celebration.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Transitional Places/Spaces

Places and Spaces

I guess I fall pretty differently on this than that class that Jesse and Shirley took. And on the way the words seem anyway. Space seems like a void. Place seems like something concrete. But the emotional resonance of these words with me are totally opposite of what might seem to be true.

To me a space seems intimate, warm. The word makes me think of a nook, somewhere comfortable that you can fill, where you can be. A place to me is more sterile, a boundary, a measure of space. Somewhere you're going to, or coming from, as opposed to somewhere you are.

The idea of a space to me makes me want to create. A space is somewhere things can happen, things can become something in a space, it allows room, and is somehow special, where a place is just a place. A location. No room for growth, or life inside of it. A place is somehow cold.

For example, I would never think of my childhood home as a place... I might refer to it as one, but to me it is the space I grew up in, the space where family is, where memories can stretch out. I guess I'm feeling a little sentimental.

Sorry about that.

Monday, February 4, 2008