Summer 2015 Residency

R. Luke DuBois

The Residency at the Crossroads program’s focus is to bring artists back to Times Square at the earliest point in creating new work for urban centers and use this iconic place as a laboratory for uncovering how users of public places behave and identify with an area. The artists’ subsequent discoveries, in turn, provide the Alliance with qualitative research to use in developing future programming for Times Square, New York’s town square.

Each residency is three-months and allows NYC-based artists time for reflection, exploration and experimentation in artistic spaces that are usually available only on the day of a performance or installation. The results may take shape as interventions, performances, events, published findings or project proposals. The summer of 2015, artist R. Luke DuBois concluded the inaugural residency by creating a video portrait based upon self-generated imagery from social media engagement, staged interventions and usage of EarthCam footage on the 24-hour cameras that share Times Square with the globe.

July 23, 2015

"How do you make a portrait of a place that 300,000 different people visit each day, and that is constantly changing?  A place that has such a special place in our the American cultural canon that everyone knows its name.  Hundreds of thousands of people watch it every day via public webcam; millions of people tune in to watch the ball drop on New Year's Eve.  New Yorkers wax nostalgic about it, complain about it, claim they avoid it.  But we are also extraordinarily protective of it, and we understand that our stewardship of the space is vital to how we our perceived by the world.  It is our public square, our most visible site of assembly, a place where no one is alone, and where you come to when you need to be surrounded by people and sound and light.

For the past three months I have been sitting high above Times Square in an office provided by Viacom, watching webcam footage, downloading Instagram photos (17,000 per day) and deploying teams of students to "map" the space by crowdsourced filmmaking.  What emerges is an impression of humanity as we truly are in our cities... humans navigate Times Square in a manner that can almost be described using the rules of fluid dynamics.  The flow of traffic, of people, and of media above and among its denizens, is tremendous and difficult to quantify.

I originally thought I would make a timelapse film, but to make a fast place even faster merely reveals the obvious, and the view of Times Square from above is a well-traveled one.  Instead I've focused on the ground plane, and on the self-portraiture that happens so relentlessly now.  It is the third-most photographed place on earth, and most of those photos are "selfies".  People stake their claim in Times Square like explorers on Mount Everest or the South Pole.  Pics or it didn't happen.  Plant the flag.

More soon, as I comb through the footage."