stillspotting nyc

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Snøhetta, concept sketch for To a Great City, 2011

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While the vitality and stimulation of the urban environment can be pleasant, those living in or visiting densely populated areas such as New York can have wildly different experiences. The ever-present cacophony of traffic, construction, and commerce; the struggle for mental and physical space; and the anxious need for constant communication in person or via technology are relentless assaults on the senses. One wonders how locals and visitors can escape, find respite, and make peace with their space in this “city that never sleeps.”

The Guggenheim Museum’s stillspotting nyc was a multidisciplinary project that took the museum’s Architecture and Urban Studies programming out into the streets of the city’s five boroughs: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Every three to five months, from June 2011 to October 2012, “stillspots” were identified, created, or transformed by architects, artists, designers, composers, and philosophers into public tours, events, or installations.

stillspotting nyc: brooklyn
June 2–5 and 9–12, 2011
In an installation titled Sanatorium, artist Pedro Reyes combined the best of New York’s existing therapy landscape—including psychotherapy, self-improvement instructors, and life coaches—with short experimental treatments in a temporary clinic in Downtown Brooklyn. Visitors engaged in up to three sessions from a roster of sixteen special “urban therapies.”

stillspotting nyc: manhattan
September 15–18 and 22–25, 2011
For the second edition of stillspotting nyc, composer Arvo Pärt and the New York- and Oslo-based architectural firm Snøhetta collaborated on To a Great City, a series of stillspots around Lower Manhattan. For this project, the architects subtly altered indoor and outdoor spaces with the placement of large-scale weather balloons, which embodied the concept of a central musical tone and extended the perception of sound into the realm of space.

stillspotting nyc: queens
April 14–15, 21–22, 28–29, and May 5–6, 2012
For Transhistoria, the third edition of stillspotting nyc, the architects at Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu (SO – IL) explored how one finds calm and inner peace in a bustling environment such as Jackson Heights, Queens. Transformative personal narratives were commissioned from Queens-affiliated writers, who recounted their stories about finding home away from home in Jackson Heights, in neighborhood stillspots as varied as residential, commercial, and public spaces.

stillspotting nyc: staten island
July 14–15, 21–22, 28–29, and August 4–5, 2012
For Telettrofono, the fourth edition of stillspotting nyc, sound artist Justin Bennett and poet Matthea Harvey presented an audio walking tour around a Staten Island neighborhood waterfront, braiding the history of Antonio Meucci—the unacknowledged inventor of the first telephone (or telettrofono)—along with fantasy. Bennett and Harvey melded ambient sounds from the borough with invented noises such as pianos made of stone and glass and a bone-xylophone, along with a poetic script weaving in Meucci’s tragic story.

stillspotting nyc: bronx
October 13–14, 2012
Hearing is often measured with an audiogram, a test in which humans are asked to raise their hands or press a button when detecting a range of tones of specific frequency and intensity. For the fifth and final edition of stillspotting nyc, the New York–based prank collective Improv Everywhere, along with audiologist Tina Jupiter, unveiled a unique interpretation of the conventional audiogram through an interactive experience in the South Bronx that connected science with humor and the element of surprise. This program examined how the effects of urban noise on our hearing can be measured more creatively.

On October 9, 2012, the Guggenheim Museum and the creators of Unsound, the celebrated New York festival, hosted stillspotting nyc: finale, a variety show featuring talks, performances, films, readings, statements, and personal reflections by architects, artists, planners, scientists, politicians, philosophers, and musicians on the issues explored in the five editions of stillspotting nyc.

Stillspotting nyc was organized by David van der Leer, Associate Curator, Architecture and Urban Studies, with Sarah Malaika, Stillspotting Project Associate, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Support for stillspotting nyc is provided by the Rockefeller Foundation NYC Opportunities Fund and a MetLife Foundation Museum and Community Connections grant.


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This project is also supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Leadership Committee for stillspotting nyc, cochaired by Franklin Campbell and Pamela Samuels, is gratefully acknowledged for its support.


Snøhetta, concept sketch for To a Great City, 2011. Digital photograph with handwriting. © Snøhetta 2011

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