Medium No. 1 (Manhattan), 2008/9
Transcripts of 82 walks across Manhattan (January 1, 2009-March 22, 2009), thermal roll fax machine, laminate wood flooring, plywood, mirror, drywall, fluorescents
Install Shots from In Practice Winter '09 at SculptureCenter
Beginning on the first day of the year and running until the exhibition's closing, I transmitted improvisatory monologues and conversations recorded on walks across Manhattan to a thermal roll fax machine in SculptureCenter's basement. These daily transmissions read as a continuous scroll, fed along a twenty-five foot long triangular structure, producing an eighty-two day portrait of New York City through the interfaces of machine and mind.
Walking in New York has been a subject of many artists and writers, including Vito Acconci, Janet Cardiff, Paul Auster, Frank O’Hara, Walt Whitman, Henri Lefebvre and Benjamin De Casseres. As a born-and-bred New Yorker, I have continually found myself drawn to the city as an artistic subject and artistic medium. Medium No. 1 (Manhattan) emerges from this interest.
The Manhattan grid served as the overarching parameter for my walks. The 1811 Commissioner's Proposal created the grid, in what Rem Koolhaas has called "the most courageous act of prediction in Western Civilization." When I first read the proposal, I was surprised by the transparency of its economic intent: that the standardization of horizontal property would help maximize the exchange-value of space – opening the vertical axis, as Koolhaas notes, to the eventuality of the skyscraper.
Medium No. 1 (Manhattan) comprises a mode of walking (river-to-river, from 1st St. to 82nd St.) that performs a total adherence to the structural and symbolic premise of the grid, while being unlike any form of everyday pedestrian travel. Through these daily periods of labor, and through the monologues and dialogues delivered over their course, my fellow walkers and I proposed a new type of creative use-value for the grid.
If the sculptural component of the installation noted the historical relationship of Minimalism to bodily scrolling – with particular reference to the work of Carl Andre – then the fax machine's transcript/scroll engaged a textual lineage, linking pre-modern forms of recording to the hypertext scrolling that has come to define how late-twentieth and early twenty-first century communities navigate text. Conceptually and performatively, scrolling connected the activities occurring in public and in the art institution, stitching a seam between reader and speaker – and between user and device.
Read transcripts (PDF)