Busing Audiences to the Bronx

09/02/2009 4:00 AM |

And then there’s the way that the audience experiences this work. I’ve experienced a couple of different travelogues, it seems like they’ve been bubbling up over the past few years, where the viewers experience it individually through a set of headphones, so it’s a very private, very internal experience. And yet it’s also a collective experience at the same time. In the same way that tension exists in neighborhoods—a very strong individual experience that’s part of a collective experience. I just think it’s so wonderful that you found a way to use the delivery of the content to mirror something happening in the piece itself. Have you been very deliberate about the choice of using headphones? How did you land on that?

I think we initially started out, about three workshops back, thinking that there could be an actress who carried the entire thing. But the problem with that was the location of expectation in a single body. And if that were to happen, what does that body look like and who could it be and all the politization of skin color, all of those things became very charged.

And it would also keep people from looking out the windows, in a sense.

Yeah, it also rerouted the gaze. So the headphones came out of that. But there also is a live actor, Sarah Hayon.

One other thing that intrigues me about this piece is the notion of forcing people to look. With this kind of work, the audience is pushed beyond a suspension of disbelief—you’ve been thrust into a new reality in a sense, and you’re being forced to look in a way that you don’t ordinarily look at the world. And especially in a city that people assume they have familiarity with, there’s something exciting about training people’s gaze on a certain thing, even if you don’t succeed in getting them to look exactly where you want, you’re just getting them to think about it. It seems like there is this desire on the part of some artists to force people to look. Do you have any thoughts about what that desire speaks to in you or why you want people to look again at the South Bronx?

I don’t think I would use the word ‘force,’ but I do think that in my own work I’m very interested in the body. And the recognition of the body as the most important thing and also the most vulnerable thing. So, even though the tour is very landmark-based and interested in the history of the landscape, I’m interested in it only in as much as it points to the lives, to the people, and the idea that communities are built out of lives. And so I think to allow people, not force them, but allow them to look and to listen is something that allows people to be then re-inhabited in their own body. Maybe it’s a little naïve, but I feel like if you locate yourself in your own body then you will recognize the other bodies around you. The more alienated we become from our own senses, the more alienated we become from other people. And so, I find it an exciting project for that reason, that it really grounds people back into the basic things of listening and looking, and in a kind of relational dynamic, with a you and a me and an us.