I have, here, undertaken a series of vignettes built around nine elements which, taken together, are my portrayal of a big city…any city.
Seen from afar, major cities are an accumulation of big buildings, big population and big acreage. For me it is not ‘real.’ The big city as it is seen by its inhabitants is the real thing. The true picture is in the crevices on its floors and around the smaller pieces of its architecture where daily life swirls.
Will Eisner, from the introduction to New York: The Big City
Eisner’s Comic New York: Life in the Big City (of which New York: The Big City is sub-section) contains many short episodic comics, often with little if any dialogue, depicting people engaged in small interactions with architectural elements of the city; fire hydrants, lamp posts, bins etc. It reminded me of Francis Alys’ work using similar elements in urban public space. Below is a page from Eisner’s comic and a video by Alys.
Above is a video by a graffiti artist named Momo about writing a tag the width of Manhattan by dripping paint from a can attached to the back of his bike. The tag was done in2006 but went unnoticed for several years and has recently been featured in this piece in the NY Times.
The video below is called The Leak and was made by Francis Alys in Paris in 2006. This video and others by Francis Alys are available to view or download and share under a creative commons license from his website http://francisalys.com/public.html
“These videos can be downloaded and shared with others as long as the authorship is credited and there is a link back to the website of the author. These videos cannot be altered in any way or used for commercial purpose.”
Francis Alys has made many of his videos available online through his website. Most of the videos have been made public domain through creative commons licensing and can be downloaded while a small number are only available to be watched online.
image: still from SometimesMaking Something Leads to Nothing, Mexico City, 1997, 4:59min
There’s an article in today’s Irish Times about Katie Holten’s Tree Museum and her upcoming show at the Hugh Lane as a part of the Golden Bough series. The Tree Museum was a public artwork that examined people’s relationships to trees in the Bronx area of New York through an audio guide featuring recordings of local people. Below is a short video about the Tree Museum and the audio recordings are available through her website.
“This past winter, the snow stayed so long we almost forgot what the ground looked like. In Detroit, there is little money for plowing; after a big storm, the streets and sidewalks disappear for days. Soon new pathways emerge, side streets get dug out one car-width wide. Bootprints through parks veer far from the buried sidewalks. Without the city to tell him where to walk, the pilgrim who first sets out in fresh snowfall creates his own path. Others will likely follow, or forge their own paths as needed.
In the heart of summer, too, it becomes clear that the grid laid down by the ancient planners is now irrelevant. In vacant lots between neighborhoods and the attractions of thoroughfares, bus stops and liquor stores, well-worn paths stretch across hundreds of vacant lots. Gaston Bachelard called these lescheminsdudésir: pathways of desire. Paths that weren’t designed but eroded casually away by individuals finding the shortest distance between where they are coming from and where they intend to go.”
Using google maps I was able to find the shortcut across a part that I used to take to school.