Crappy, Sad, Broken New York Umbrellas (Day 5)
The idea for this installation came from a discussion about the objects that we have to buy sometimes that we don’t really want to buy. In this case, we were talking about ubiquitous, cheaply-made black umbrellas that appear on every corner the minute it begins to rain in New York. These umbrellas barely last more than a day and can often be found littered on the streets after a big storm.
The week of our workshop, it rained nearly every day, so we had many opportunities to collect umbrellas. We decided to install them as a kind of memorial to broken umbrellas. Each created a silhouette that was singularly sad but poetic. Together, they felt like a family, residents of an umbrella nursing home, or an army!
Chase Wall (Day 4)
We began collecting receipts at the beginning of the workshop to be more conscientious of our own spending habits. Andrew noticed that we could gather large quantities of receipts from Chase Bank ATMs. The stories contained in each of them, usually based on the amount of money withdrawn and the balance, were fascinating and mysterious. What is the person like who recently withdrew $200, leaving $40,209.38? What about the person who only had $0.12 left in their account?
Stains (Day 3)
One of our goals in this project was not just to look at the economic realities around us, but also to recognize our role in these systems. Thus we began by contemplating the statement:
“Materialism means that the reality I see is never whole, not because a large part of it eludes me, but because it contains a stain, a blind spot, which indicates my inclusion in it.” -S. Zizek
We were interested in somehow materializing these “stains” in a way that spoke to the importance of recognizing positions of subjectivity – ours and those who might visit the exhibit. After much debate, we decided on colorful painted shapes that would change based on your position in the space and “snap together” when viewed from certain spots–our perspectives.
Data Collection (Day 4)
Throughout the workshop, we collected information on our own labor activities and economic exchanges, using our group as a mini-demographic. Some of the questions made their way into the interviews that we conducted at the Port Authority and with each other. Others influenced our conversations. Many of the answers were so interesting, that we decided to embed them into the space for truly observant viewers.
Posters (Day 3)
We framed the workshop with daily discussions about labor and the economy, yet we felt that it was hard to represent that very important part of our process. So, during some of the conversations, we began to collect phrases that could encapsulate our ideas in ways that were perceptive, poetic, and funny. We decided on the screen- printed poster format for its potential for wide distribution and its connection to a history of protest. “OMG, I Look So Fucking Beautiful!” came from a story that Evalise was telling about having a whole closet of the same kinds of dresses that she has only worn once, just to buy another one. Chris exclaimed, “That Dream Got Me Good!” when telling us about his body’s ability to fool him into shutting the alarm clock off and falling asleep instead of waking for work. Andrew developed “Money is a Language” during our conversation of money as an abstract idea. “The Work Must Be Worth Doing” comes from a William Morris text that we read together and “Today I Worked 7 Hours” came from one of our Data Collection questions that Evalise had singled out for a collage.
Though extracted from their original context and abstracted, the simple statements serve to convey the exciting mix of ideals, realities, and poetic moments that we grappled with during the workshop.
How Much is Enough?: Interviewing Strangers at the Port Authority (Day 4)
and Why Should We Try?: Interviewing Each Other (Day 5)
The idea for conducting street interviews came from Evalise, who was inspired by a youtube video she had recently watched of a man who interviewed people on the subway. She thought that it would be revealing to interview other New Yorkers about some of the same questions and topics that we were discussing in our group. As a group we brainstormed questions, and ultimately narrowed it down to several that we thought would reveal individual value systems as they relate to labor and money in the ways that people would answer them: How much is enough? Why should we try? How do you imagine the present? The resulting audio is a mix of answers from over two dozen New Yorkers, whose answers reveal the complexity — and oftentimes the contradictions — in what we ideals we value, and how we actually live.
For a link to “How Much is Enough?”, click here.
For a link to “Why Should We Try?”, click here.