Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Late Pass: Thoughts about a drive into NYC from four years ago PT 1
New York City takes on layers and layers of character. With every visit you can see the simultaneous painting over and peeling back of its history. Some relics are architectural, other relics tell you about what it meant to be a 'pioneer' there in the 20th century. I mean pioneering only in an internalized sense, specific to one's own tribe. The first of the evolution of a private history, facing up what's requisite of the research, exploration, and combat of a new place. This of course is speaking to the storied immigration of the first half of the 20th and the hopeful borderless migration of citizens toward another life in the big city.
One visit, while arriving in the city I must have photographed at least a dozen signs that sold the sort of "raw material" for living that in some ways doesn't "belong" in Manhattan any more. Scaffold, rubber, cement, cork, asbestos, bracketing, masonry...The landing party, frontierism of new life in the United States' cities is in an entirely different form now. One inherits the product and has to learn how to use it, rather than gaining the land and being required to create a space to live in. Dirty resourcefulness gets pushed into the orbits around the cities, and 'diy' gets imported for maintenance.
Without sounding nostalgic or like i'm lamenting a by-gone era, there are of course still frontiers left in NY City. The redefinition of the interiors whose facades define the ageless face of Gotham, and the spatial interpretation of all the veins and tissue that help balance such a place remain a challenge and a truly exciting temporary space in one of the most 'permanent' cities in the world.
Fifteen years ago when I first was able to visit New York City, I would stare at some of the abandoned buildings and crenellating public spaces and wonder what they were like when they were first built, when their purpose was fully realized, and their order of things was functioning and established. Now, those same buildings have houses, new factories, theatres, cafes, retail, and a litany of other repurposes ensuring their existence. So much so that, like striving for a sense of frontierism in a finished place, you wonder if any shadows still exist. Any dark corners that haven't been swept up or tidied yet.