Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

A Photograph, a Poem, an Essay to New York

I. A Photograph

If you had to choose four images to capture New York, what would they be? Photojournalist Hiroyuki Ito presents variations on this theme in his new exhibition, “Transfer of Guilt.” The idea for his series of four images, each arranged without context in a grid, came from a surprising place:

The idea of making grids came from visiting a video booth in Times Square, where the viewer watches four porn movies simultaneously on a split screen…Looking at four sad human dramas unfolding in front of my eyes was at least intellectually stimulating. Upon closer inspection, the random movies started to create rhythm of their own both visually and emotionally, as if John Cage was at work behind the screen.

II. A Poem

Actually, only a section of a poem. Part Six of Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry“:

I too lived—Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine; 60
I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan Island, and bathed in the waters around it;
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed, they came upon me.
I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution; 65
I too had receiv’d identity by my Body;
That I was, I knew was of my body—and what I should be, I knew I should be of my body.

III. An Essay

Finally, from a wholly engrossing, unsentimental, thoughtful collection of essays I read this weekend by Eula Biss, entitled Notes from No Man’s Land, an essay about leaving New York:

I often woke before dawn and could not fall back to sleep. I lay there listening to car alarms cycle through all their different sounds while my heart raced for no reason. It is hard for me to separate my experience of living in New York from the sensation of reaching the limits of my own independence. I was excruciatingly lonely, and everything was unfamiliar and diffficult. But, in a way, I was living my dream.

Biss’ refusal to admire the New York in everyone else’s imagination is in contrast to Joan Didion’s essay of the same title, “Goodbye to All That.” Biss cringes from the sentimental Manhattan of the “I Heart NY” crowd. Instead, she writes about the small moments of defeat, like her run-in (literally) with a pedestrian on a street corner in Chinatown. Or the negotiation of so many young people who come to the city (myself included), trying to negotiate independence and solitude.

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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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