I feel it would be appropriate to preface my initial impressions at Columbia with the incredible feat of actually moving to New York. I’d equate it to someone punching you in the face and taking all of your money......and then maybe telling you that there's no Santa Claus. It was an absolute shit storm. There were so many parties involved that you lose track of who you should be talking to. In the end, my girlfriend and I found a great place though four blocks from school so the bitterness has worn off.
We are nearly through the first week of classes and have already begun our second assignment for Studio. I love our neighborhood and this city. Its speed and the quiet moments in between create a dynamic like no other place in the world. It's also ugly at times, gritty, and unforgiving. It's real in every way possible.
Columbia sits in its own microenvironment in Morningside Heights looking out over Harlem. It teems with people from every place you can imagine. Within our program I can think offhand of at least 12 countries represented, all with a different story. We begin our program by looking at New York proper as our classroom for the summer term. A site in each of the five boroughs is chosen.
Newtown Creek, Brooklyn – my site
Lower Manhattan, Manhattan
St. George, Staten Island
East Tremont Avenue Corridor, The Bronx
Our first exercise entitled Urban Recorder involves using an environmental transformer, in this case a wearable device, that alters or enhances our experience of place. This nonconventional mode of mapping inserts the human vessel into a site with the hope of gathering data that would otherwise be elusive. Using principals of the derive one must trust in their device and avoid the preconceived result. My impressions of Newtown Creek, Brooklyn were striking and immediate. It borders communities like Long Island City across the creek that are developing luxury housing and a healthy street life. As you approach the creek, the streetscape deteriorates into warehouses and factories. This is initiated by the barriers of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel Expressway cutting west along the creek and the railroad just south.
This discontinuity and constant redirecting in space inspired my device. I chose to run the site at night to trace movement within an urban grid. I did this by fashioning my shoes into reflectors and drawing with light. Using extended exposures I traced visual corridors and stop-spaces as I called them where redirect was necessary.
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