July 12, 2017 - ongoing
Turn your walk through Times Square into a journey through a song. Artists Mendi + Keith Obadike have stretched fragments of music, poetry, stories, and myths across the pedestrian plazas and surrounding blocks in all four cardinal directions, for visitors to discover whether they’re exploring the neighborhood or simply on their way to work. The result is Compass Song, an app-based public sound artwork inspired by Times Square’s rich history as the Crossroads of the World. Compass Song was commissioned by and created in residence with Times Square Arts.
As you turn on the app, plug in your headphones and walk through Times Square, a voice will accompany your wanderings with poems about searching for freedom, reflections on navigating the city, and cross-cultural myths about the cardinal directions, woven through with quotes from and reworkings of Walk With Me, the African-American spiritual turned Civil Rights freedom song. The voice in Compass Song is always underscored by a drone, a unique harmony that translates the latitude and longitude data for Times Square into sound and modulates as you walk north, south, east, or west. Interspersed with this are vocal performances of the sounds of Times Square, as if the city itself is singing to you.
Compass Song is centered at Duffy Square, with sounds spread between 49th Street to the north, 42nd Street to the south, 8th Avenue to the west, and 6th Avenue to the east. Let the map guide you within the active soundscape to seek out more of the audio experience, or wander through the district using only the app’s compass to happen upon divergent sonic elements.
A special kick-off performance exemplifying the Compass Song experience will take place on Wednesday, July 12th on the Broadway Pedestrian Plaza between 45th and 46th Street. Sixteen performers will vocally recreate the city’s sounds as they hear them and then begin singing the freedom song Walk With Me as they divide into four ambulatory groups, each group walking off in one of the cardinal directions. The audience is encouraged to follow whichever group they choose, finding their own individual viewing and listening experience across the landscape of Times Square. Like the app itself, it is an invitation to meditate on the process of finding yourself at a crossroads and choosing your path.
For more information on the project, please visit CompassSong.com
Mendi + Keith Obadike, artists, said, “With Compass Song, we invite the listener to consider the physical space of Times Square, the literal path that one is walking, and what it means to find one’s way in a space one shares with others.”
Debra Simon, Times Square Arts Director, said, “Compass Song leads listeners on a process of discovery, a walking meditation where the natural sounds of Times Square layer with the sounds of the work itself.”
About Mendi + Keith Obadike
Mendi + Keith Obadike make art, music, and literature. They have exhibited and performed at The New Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art. Their projects include a series of large-scale public sound art works: Blues Speaker (for James Baldwin) at The New School (commissioned by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics with Harlem Stage), Free/Phase at the Chicago Cultural Center, and Ring Shout (for Octavia Butler) at Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA. Their recent gallery exhibitions include Numbers Station [Furtive Movements] at RYAN LEE Gallery, NYC and the group show Electronic Superhighway (2016-1966) at The Whitechapel Gallery, London. Their honors include a Rockefeller New Media Arts Fellowship, Pick Laudati Award for Digital Art, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction. They were recently awarded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award Biennial Award.
About Times Square Arts
Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists to experiment and present projects within one of the world's most popular commercial centers and most iconic urban places. With projects such as Steve Lambert's Capitalism Works for Me! True/False and Arles del Rio's Nearness, Times Square Arts is committed to presenting artworks that encourage meaningful dialogue and amplify underrepresented voices on our highly visible public platform. In February 2017, Times Square Arts presented We Were Strangers Once Too, a public data sculpture by the Office for Creative Research highlighting the role that immigrants have played in the founding, development, and continued vibrancy of New York City. www.TimesSquareNYC.org/Arts
Image courtesy of Mendi + Keith Obadike.