Art can often be a great bridge for allowing us to become aware or really “see” and experience our environments in different ways. Around the world, there is a range of visual art (for example murals) to interactive creative installations that extend an invitation for us to be more present with our surroundings.
Most recently, Elastic City has hosted free waking tours that allow individuals to move through and experience urban spaces with a unique perspective. In a recent New York Times article “Walking and Watching at Elastic City’s Final Festival” by Siobhan Burke, it is described as,
“Whether taking tiny steps through Stuyvesant Town or using plastic bags as pillows on the pavement in Union Square, participants are invited to be curious, playful pedestrians.”
As I read this short piece, I was of course fascinated that individuals were being invited to experience space, especially urban space, in a different way but could not help but raise questions about what I was reading. In what way can being seen and seeing become places of privilege or something to “try on” creatively versus how one actually has to experience their daily life? In other words, for the individuals who have (and do) use plastic bags or other items as pillows due to a state of homelessness, this is life, not an exercise.
I am not accusing or claiming that this might not have been a conversation that the artists had with visitors. Yet, I can’t help but to ask the bigger question of all of us who may call ourselves creatives or artists: what are other ways in which we use or engage others in art or creative endeavor to experience the world but ignore some of the ways we might suffer myopia in regards to the issues that may intersect?
In this case, Elastic City is helping individuals to experience space in novel and new ways which is important. Perhaps, there are ways of using that plastic bag as a pillow with some awareness of the individuals who actually live that space in real time. Maybe there are ways that the creative can be used as a realm for unzipping curiosity and play in ways that also bring awareness to the table.
More About Elastic City & Their Work
Check out the videos of some of the work and artists of Elastic City which goes beyond the example provided in the New York Times piece and this commentary. And if you are in the area…perhaps you might want to engage in some of the exploring!