New York’s New Art Waves :: Extending Over The Bridge

by Chiara Bernasconi, Digital media project manager, MoMA, NYC

Big questions: What can be considered art and what not? At which point of the creative process does a work become a “work of art,” and who validates that? For whom is art made for? Why do we make art?

In 2011 these questions are still relevant, even in a city like New York where anything is possible. I started struggling with these doubts when I started collaborating in the creation of conceptual walks.

One night last June I decided to participate to a walk organized by the founder of Elastic City, Todd Shalom. At the time he just started creating conceptual walks in collaboration with artists with different backgrounds who were interested in showing another side of the city by engaging a group of participants in these performative-guided walks.

It was an awkward and special beginning: the encounter of two people meeting for the first time to cross the Brooklyn Bridge together on foot, with no specific agenda, produced conversations on the way the bridge looked and felt, on our passions and obsessions, Marina Abramovic at MoMA, city marketing, and life.

This random and magical occasion instilled in me the idea that such a unique connection had to be preserved and that it was important to develop this concept more, so I asked Todd to keep our conversation going. A month later we decided to collaborate in creating a new walk. We called this experiment Brooklyn Bridge Ext. because we invited other participants to build this connection. Our intention was to extend ourselves by creating a chain of links with other people and their experience crossing the bridge. I suggested that we had our walk in a sleepless summer night at 10 p.m., and invited other two people to join. Only Kamomi showed up. She happened to be reading the same book I had in my bag, «Species of Spaces» by George Perec.

Then us three worked on a third walk, a performance in which we were writing a score for the bridge, based on each artist’s needs and interpretation of the bridge at that time. I had a broken foot, and wanted to cross the bridge at a very slow pace with another person. Todd was going to walk hand in hand with one of the participants in silence, Kamomi was going to read passages about the bridge, according to where she was physically located.

The day that we scheduled for the walk, the three participants who initially signed up didn’t come. That made it very apparent that the work is always dependent on other people’s participation and reactions. Asking people in the street if they wanted to walk with us over the bridge would not have been the same thing, so each one of us departed thinking about the next iteration of the “extention,” in what looked like a work in progress rather than the final work.

I phantasize about the idea of making an installation, taking a photograph, making a sculpture. It seems like it would be much easier. But I know that’s not the case. My interest lies in bringing people together, seeing their reaction while the work is in progress, asking them to complete the work with their contribution. Even if in different ways, every form of art and creative process has to face the response of the public. I am thinking about inviting people to join a future walk that explores shadows. Introducing other random elements, such as lights and reflections, will make the capturing of these ephemeral phenomena even more challenging, and will require even more involvement from people. Maybe some people won’t consider this art, maybe they won’t like it, they’ll find the experience silly or uncomfortable. But isn’t it what art is for? To challenge us?


Chiara Bernasconi creates participatory and ephemeral events that explore the concept of “journey.” A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she works as a project manager in digital media at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, and collaboratively curates an artist residency in her native Italy.

Elastic City intends to make its audience active participants in an ongoing poetic exchange with the places we live in and visit. Artists are commissioned by Elastic City to create their own walks. These walks tend to focus less on providing factual information and more on heightening our awareness, exploring our senses and making new group rituals in dialogue with public space in the city.

[Title Image: Matilde Soligno, New York Takes – Part I: VideoCam Frames No. 01, 2008.]

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