Of the two festivals that offer installations and performances roughly based on psychogeography, Conflux and AIOP seem to have lost a strong thread tying all of the exhibitions together. The individual installations and performances included in these events are only scratching the surface, but when viewed as a collective festival it infuses the urban landscape with experimentation. Conflux has more of a technology focus, and AIOP is mostly different groups of performance artists set up in different locations in the city. In one performance, a group of artists from the collective Flux Factory wear t-shirts with waivers printed on the back of them. One artist stands across the street and waves to someone walking down the street (they choose specific people to wave at – people in hats, boots, etc). If the person waves back, another artist on that side of the street stops them and asks them to sign the waiver on the back of their shirt. The performance is called Sign a Waiver. I don’t know about you but one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone stops me on the street, to ask me something, hand out something, etc. I’m usually in a rush, being a New Yorker and all, and it bothers me that someone assumes that my time is not that important. If I’m meandering through the city on a derive, however, I probably wouldn’t mind that much. Unfortunately I don’t usually have the luxury of that freedom.
This brings up an interesting point about time, psychogeography and who really cares? I think it’s fascinating that there can never be two identical psychogeographies of an area, because each person will have different memories and experiences in a place. However, who has the time to drift through the city, letting the contours and encounters guide you. The only purpose you have is to keep your awareness open to chance and circumstance and a sense of play and adventure. Is this aimless navel-gazing for jobless people with too much free time? Or is it something that everyone, even people whose jobs and families prevent them from having much freedom, would benefit from experiencing?
The concept of psychogeography is deeply rooted in the theory and circumstances of the Sixties. This new approach to the city was a rebellion against the “spectacle”. In these days, the spectacle is more powerful than ever, so much so that we don’t even notice it anymore. Many of these street installations are surface treatments of a larger issue that is underlying but not mentioned. Or maybe people aren’t interested in making political statements anymore. The closest any of the artists get to making a political statement is Rebecca Nagle who stands in the middle of Times Square with a sign saying “I can’t compete with this”. She attempts to bring awareness to the increasing competing advertisements that make up the texture of our urban environment.
This project is interesting – the artist Todd Jokl proposed to track participants paths on a map of nyc. Each person has a hand-held GPS device that they use to check-in at every Conflux event they visit. The map he draws in the simulation is beautiful, the line quality is organic and each path combines to create this nice visual harmony. When you see the actual results of the project the feeling completely changes. It looks so unnatural and forced. There are 12 lines, some follow identical paths, and others just meander around the small space of the parks. Also, that shaky, natural line quality is gone. Maybe there were technical restraints to actually creating a path on Google maps but I would have liked to see the artist draw the path lines himself then. I’m struggling to see the purpose of this project, beyond trying to make a beautiful composition at the end of the festival.
I just played three of these gnome games and they’re very addictive. The artist’s name is Mateusz Skutnik and he highlights little known or abandoned places by creating a scavenger hunt for gnomes hiding in the structures and behind walls. His images are high contrast black and white, so very expressive and mysterious, and during the game an ominous melody plays in the background. The gnomes themselves are adorable and have so much personality that it makes me so happy to find them. This game makes me smile. Thanks Mateusz!
This is a lovely audio tour by Jeremy Dalmas that infuses the city with some mystery and adventure. He started in Golden gate park and by popular demand created an audio tour for the southwest part of New York City. You are meant to download the tour on an ipod and begin at the start of the tour. He takes you through back streets and down staircases, through parks, sometimes providing true historical facts and other times embellishing a little. He makes the experience of the street so intimate amidst the hustle and bustle, and even unearths some hidden creatures and forgotten stories along the way. The various music is a rich complement to his relaxing voice. The tour encourages a playful approach to the city and gives the participant a new sense of wonder while walking through ordinary surroundings.