Having rejoined the legions that sit at desks for 40 hours a week, I find myself needing to take long walks on the weekend. On Saturday, I started at the International Center of Photography at 43rd Street, which had several provoking and fantastic exhibits. The most entrancing was that of Czech photographer Miroslav Tichý, a bit of an odd recluse (okay, that’s a big understatement) who for sixty years has been building cameras and photographing the people and places he sees on his daily walks. Most of these people are women, chatting at cafes, bending over to tie shoes, walking in bathing suits at the pool. He makes his cameras out of cardboard tubes, tin cans, spectacles, and other random trash, giving all the photographs a distorted, blurred look. After he prints them, he tosses them on the floor and lets them be trampled, dirtied, and ripped.
Here are some of those cameras. All his photographs are lurid and voyeuristic, and so unlike anything I’d ever seen before. And they were also incredibly creepy. Some were displayed on handmade frames, and they all seemed to be taken without the women’s knowledge, with the photographer hiding in the trees or taking the image while her back was turned.
Downstairs, there was an exhibit called Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris that I enjoyed, especially since I could be entertained by looking at images of Paris all day. Part of the exhibit had films, and I watched Un Chien Andalou in its entirety for the first time. It’s interesting that a film made eighty years ago can still be so shocking, because although I knew about the eye slashing, the ants in the hand wound were still a surprise. There were also more images of la ville de l’amour in Atget, Archivist of Paris and admiring photographs of the male physique in Alan B. Stone and the Senses of Place.
I then started to walk south, with no planned direction. I’ve finally figured out that it’s hard to get lost in most of Manhattan if I pay attention to the numbered streets and keep track of the cardinal directions. I need to get a compass to wear around my neck. I only walked a short way before coming to Bryant Park, where I admired the daffodils, although it was too cold to sit outside for long.
I then decided to see the exhibits up at the New York Public Library. The first was Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009, which had old maps and books showing the development of the cartography of the rivers around New York. It was much more interesting than it sounds, and I especially liked this print that was made for the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. If only there were so many lovely sailboats floating in the East River. Whenever I see old pictures of New York, even from ten or twenty years ago, I find it so hard to lay them over the city I see everyday. Has any other city in North America changed so much in a century?
There was also an exhibit on Candide at 250: Scandal and Success, with different versions of Voltaire’s book that high school students studying French the world over now piece through page by page. I’m not the biggest Voltaire fan, but I can’t deny his literary importance. I was especially blown away by an original manuscript and a portefeuille inscribed with Voltaire’s name in gold. Upstairs, there was an exhibit of photographs by Laurie Simmons, who takes pictures of miniature dollhouse objects.
From 42nd Street, I continued walking south until the Flatiron Building came into view. I remembered that there was a sculpture installation around Herald Square that I’d been meaning to check out, so I kept walking towards it and was soon at 23rd Street.
All around the square there were statues of people by Antony Gormley in an installation called Event Horizon. They were about as creepy as Miroslav Tichý’s photographs, standing on the skyscrapers alone like jumpers.
I most associate the words “Event Horizon” with the horror film where Sam Neill leads a space crew to hell, and this installation is similarly unsettling. Once you see one, you start to see more staring down at you.
I walked around the square and spotted around 10, but I read somewhere that there are over 30.
There’s even one on the sidewalk, because there’s nothing people in New York love more than someone standing completely still in the middle of their path. I wonder if people collide with the metal sculpture during the morning rush to work.
I then walked down to 25th street and cut through Chelsea, then over to 18th where I stopped by City Bakery for a much needed coffee. I sat up on the upper lever and read some of Kafka (I know…) and enjoyed watching the busy baristas serve hot chocolates and mix cappuccinos. I then took the train back from Union Square to my place in Brooklyn, before heading out that night to celebrate Arya’s birthday in the East Village. It was a lot of fun and my friend Bron who I met in Berlin and is visiting from Melbourne even stopped by.
Another long post is coming about today, because it was just as busy. No wonder I drink truckloads of coffee.