URBS MAGNA IN NOCTE MEDIA
A performance in New York City after
On 29 October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States with unimaginable ferocity. In New York State alone seventy-one people lost their lives and numerous areas were made uninhabitable. Protected by its favourable location, Manhattan got off relatively lightly: the hurricane had already lost some of its momentum by the time it arrived. One consequence of the hurricane was a ten-day power failure that affected most parts of Lower Manhattan. At night, in particular, with the streets cast in complete darkness, the city assumed an entirely different aspect. Whether rich or poor, people mostly used candles to light their apartments.
On 1 November the candlelight in my apartment on the 6th floor of 112 Hudson Street became the point of reference for my work URBS MAGNA IN NOCTE MEDIA, in which I explored the unexpected advent of darkness in New York City. I began by loading my Nikon FM2 camera with a 400 ASA b/w negative film. I then pointed the Nikon with a 28-mm lens at the flame of the candle to set a shutter speed (1/30 s) and aperture (2.8) that would enable me to take hand-held shots. Equipped with my camera and a cherry-wood walking stick I left my apartment at 9:42 p.m. to go out walking in the darkness of New York. During my walk I plunged into the all-obliterating darkness, capturing it in my photographs (a selection from the photo series is part of this website). As I walked, the rhythmic clack of the stick striking asphalt was clearly audible in the streets which were virtually empty of traffic.
At around 2:20 a.m. I turned from 8th Avenue into Bleecker Street and proceeded east. I encountered no one coming towards me and no one seemed to take heed of me. Only the headlights of occasional vehicles and constantly patrolling police cars on 8th Avenue loomed out of the darkness. After a while I noticed I was being followed. On the corner of Bleecker Street and Carmine Street, immediately in front of Grom ice cream shop, a dazzling light was suddenly shone in my face. It emanated from two policemen who then began interrogating me. In the hours before, my eyes had grown accustomed to the calm darkness in which my gaze occasionally got lost before repeatedly finding its bearings from small dots of light or brighter sections of house façades and parked cars. Now, the light the policemen were shining in my face was so blinding that it hurt to look at it.[...]
[...] After we had parted I jotted down an account of our conversation, writing with pencil on paper in the dark. I photographed the darkness of Manhattan several times more on my way back to 112 Hudson Street, where I arrived at 3:27 a.m.
[Excerpt from the special publication (Separatum): URBS MAGNA IN NOCTE MEDIA, 2016]
Ill. I: View from Pell Street into Doyer Street, China Town
Ill. II: Northern side of the intersection Houston Street and Avenue B, view along Houston Street towards Hudson River
Ill. III: Northeastern corner of the intersection of E 8th Street and 4th Avenue, Astor Place, looking west along E 8th Street
Ill. IV: Intersection Bleecker Street and Morton Street, looking east along Bleecker Street. The police turned up a few minutes later
Ill. V: Immediately before my return: 116 Hudson Street, view towards 112 Hudson Street
Ill VI: Map of a part of Lower and Midtown Manhattan showing the route of my walk □: Starting and finishing point of the performance at 112 Hudson Street ๏: Point of encounter with the police at 233 Bleecker Street
Ill. VII: 112 Hudson Street, view from the window of my apartment on the 6th floor looking north, exposure time: 5 minutes, at 3:05 a.m., 1 November 2012, in the night prior to the performance.
Translation: Matthew Partridge
|Gerhard Lang © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn