This Sunday is the first of four Elastic City walks by Matthew Jensen, titled Signs of Life. I just made my way to his website, and from there to his project Nowhere In Manhattan.
For this project, he explores and documents Manhattan’s junkspaces. The word “junkspace” was coined by Rem Koolhaus. When I use it, I mean a location invisible from prescribed routes and thus overlooked, unused, untended, and host to numerous extraordinary possibilities. There, artifacts accumulate and history is most visible. Nature grows up around this waste, makes use of it indiscriminately, and thrives. Jensen uses the term “nowhere” for the same idea. He defines it as a: “place that has been neglected and from this neglect has achieved the status of an organic non-place; a perfect combination of the built and natural. From these places one cannot say, ‘I am in a park’ or ‘I am in the city’ because neither appears to be true.”
This project reminds me a lot of my 2008 Kilmer Shrines project. (We even both have a sad stuffed animal photo!) Our process is basically the same, though the end result differs. But Nowhere In Manhattan packs an extra punch. My junkspaces are all in New Jersey, where you would expect to find such places. His are in Manhattan. The borough where real estate is so expensive that a 9.5 foot wide house squeezed as an afterthought between two others sells for $2.75 million.
So on the Elastic City walk you can tag along with him — experience the meat of his project and learn about your city’s weedy underbelly. Beautiful though the photos are, the surprise and discovery of firsthand experience usually cannot be beat. If not for a deadline, I would definitely be there.
(Are you familiar with Elastic City? From their website: “Artists are commissioned…to create their own walks. These walks tend to focus less on providing factual information and more on heightening our awareness, exploring our senses and making new group rituals in dialogue with public space in the city.” I’m going to be creating a walk for them in September with Residency Unlimited.)