Breaking the Frame

Breaking the Frame is an art installation that explores the connection between visual perception and time by displacing the user’s reflected image over time and space. The installation elevates the user’s self-awareness in the present moment and challenges our traditional perception of a mirror image by incorporating not only our present reflection, but also our reflections from the immediate past.

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Looking Back (an ITP reflection): Part 2

In many ways, my ITP experience has been similar to an experience I had as a child. This story, based on my personal experience with impaired eyesight is in many ways a metaphor for my ITP experience. It also led me to an exploration of vision that would ultimately lead to an exploration of vision shifted over time, which is my final project.For the first seven years of my life, my visual experience was different to that of others. The only things I saw perfectly were the things immediately around me, and anything more than a few feet away was a blur; yet, knowing nothing of sharper vision, I was unaware that blurry vision was not the norm and less than adequate for daily life.On my first trip to the optician, I learned that I had moderate myopia, or nearsightedness, and I was prescribed glasses to correct my vision. The world literally expanded when I slipped on my first pair of glasses. My field of vision was no longer limited solely to my immediate environment: while I had been fully aware that leaves grew on trees, and while I had been entirely familiar with what a leaf looked like, I had never seen multiple leaves attached to a tree except in photographs. My visual world had expanded in three-dimensionality; I could now see clearly all the way to the horizon.

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Looking Back (an ITP reflection): Part 1

In Spring 2011, I embarked on a project called Looking Back. This project was a series of explorations encompassed two types of reflection: a retrospective of my experience and projects at ITP; and a final project entitled Breaking the Frame, which provides a more literal look back in time through reflection of the self.

Kat at ITP
I arrived at ITP in August 2009 with a background in media and communications, where I focused on how brands communicate with people and figuring out ways to improve those conversations. At ITP, I wanted to focus on creating more meaningful interactions between people, using technology as a vehicle for communication.

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MMA: The New 19th Century Galleries for Painting and Sculpture

Last week, I visited the New 19th Century Galleries for Painting and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The point of entry to these galleries is a long, grand corridor of paintings and sculptures that invites the visitor to wander around at their own pace. The grand surroundings give a sense of class and status, but despite this, the art seems accessible: low pedestals in open space make it easy for children to see the art and encourage visitors to walk around the sculptures and view the artwork from just inches away.

The near-perfect symmetry of the first gallery space creates an unmistakable sense of balance and order, both in terms of the arrangements of artwork  and interior architecture. The lighting seems like pretty general overhead lighting – it does not appear to cater to individual works.

From the initial hall of painting and sculpture, visitors have a choice of three doorways to other galleries. From here, visitors choose their own path to wander through the other galleries.

The didactics in these galleries are quite simple, providing a little background and perhaps an tidbit of interesting information regarding the artwork.

Benches in some galleries provide a welcome place for visitors to rest for a little while, or perhaps sit while spending some time looking at a painting.

The Wisteria Dining Room (1910-13), designed by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer in Art Nouveau style, is one part of the exhibit that stood out. The entire room, originally built in a Paris apartment, has been put back together within the museum. The incorporation of the room’s original floor lamps makes the room appear as it would actually have looked almost one hundred years ago.

A couple of the painting galleries were surprisingly dimly lit. Sure, it creates contrast between the rooms, and the dim light really brings the visitor in, but I found myself squinting to see the paintings. I suppose that this was the intention of the exhibit designers, so I’ll be interested to find out more about why one might choose to display paintings in such a dark environment.

Cabinets of Wonder: Museum Websites

I did a quick survey of two museum websites for Cabinets of Wonder. My goal was to figure out how easy it is to access basic info on the museum (directions, hours of operation, address), and also to find additional parts of the website that I found surprising/interesting.

The Jewish Museum

Address on homepage, 1 click for hours, 2 clicks for directions.

The Jewish Museum website features an online exhibitions section of some of the Museum’s previous exhibitions. Some of the online exhibitions have interactive features. There is an interactive Flash game in the William Steig online exhibition inspired by a game called “Five Lines” that William Steig’s daughter Maggie recalled playing with her father. Five Lines provides users with five random black lines on a white background and invites them to make the lines into a face by adding their own lines. In another online exhibition, there’s Curious George timeline that visitors can virtually cycle on by pushing a bike along the timeline. Users can click items along the timeline to access works from that exhibition.

I also learned that the Jewish Museum has a international travel program that offers members “unique opportunities to learn about art and Jewish culture in communities around the world.”

MoMA

Address on homepage, 2 clicks for hours, 2 clicks for directions.

MoMA’s site focuses on accessibility for everyone. One of the first things I came across was the Museum’s MeetMe program, dedicated to making art accessible to people with Alzheimers/dementia.

MoMA’s focus on education and research only became apparent to me on the website. In the Learn section, I learned that MoMA offers lecture courses and studio art courses. There are daytime and evening courses, in addition to online courses that can be completed on the user’s own time. There’s a research section on the MoMA site with information on accessing the museum library, a circulating video library, and several study centers, open by appointment, that offer access to specialized research materials.

Looking at Pictures

I pondered this huge bale of hay at MoMA for quite a while, wondering how exactly a cattle herd’s dinner had found its way to midtown Manhattan. The hay smelled good and tapped into childhood memories of my family’s neighbors in Ireland making hay in the summertime.

Here’s what went through my head: A bale of hay in MoMA! Sweet! I prefer loose hay though. Once hay goes through the baler, I can no longer toss the cut, dried grass up in the air with my feet as I run in the field. Still, square bales are better than round bales. Round bales are usually covered with plastic and tend to smell like rotting grass after a while.

Why is this bale so large, I wondered? Why is it at MoMA? And why are all these people walking by instead of stopping to look at it?

After sketching the hay, I found a plaque on the wall with the artist’s name and statement – Brazilian artist Cielo Miereles created the piece, Thread (1990-95). Rather than a single bale of hay, this sculpture is actually comprised of “forty-eight bales of hay, one 18-carat gold needle, and fifty-eight meters of gold thread.”

Thus, I was looking at a needle (albeit a gold one) in a haystack.

According to the statement on the wall, Thread evokes the “geometric rationality of Minimalist art” in a medium normally associated with agriculture, and the gold needle is connected to the wire. The piece “suggests the precariousness of economic relationships…and the place of the individual within a larger social system.”

Cabinets of Wonder: Tenement Museum

Prior to visiting the Tenement Museum, I expected that it would make me think about my grandparents’ immigration from Ireland to the United States and imagine what it was like for them. It did, but unexpectedly only after I left the place – because while in the museum, we were busy imagining ourselves in the situation in which they put us.

Fourteen-year-old Victoria Confino welcomed the Cabinets of Wonder class (playing the role of a Russian Jewish family of twelve, who had just disembarked the ship after a 3-week journey across the Atlantic) into her apartment. The more questions we asked, the more we learned about Victoria. It was an effective way to learn. All tours are guided, so we couldn’t wander around by ourselves – but we were encouraged to let our minds wander within the context. It helped us to learn through imagination – through putting ourselves in someone else’s place. That Victoria was a professional actress, rather than a museum guide or curator, made the tour all the more interesting.

It was fun getting into the character of a 9-year-old Russian who had just disembarked from a transatlantic voyage in steerage. It was challenging not to giggle at first while in character. As time went on, we played around a bit more – my 10-year-old sister Patricia asked for a doctor to look at my right foot, which I’d injured on the boat, which in turn got Victoria telling us about how we’d need to fix our own medical problems while living in the tenement.

The Tenement Museum felt nothing like the museums we’ve been to, because it put us in the position of real people who lived at 97 Orchard Street almost a hundred years ago, as opposed to people who are viewing objects in a museum. It brought us closer to the past, putting nothing between history and ourselves – unlike many other places we’ve seen, where we can’t touch most things or have to settle for observing things through windows.

Through the kinds of questions we asked, we were reminded us that people in those days were like us – just ordinary people. Also, this museum made me want to go back – we just saw one story yesterday, but there are more stories in there.

Cabinets of Wonder: The Bronx Zoo

My first exhibition trip for Cabinets of Wonder was the Bronx Zoo.

I walked into the Bronx Zoo through the Asia Gate, the closest zoo entrance to the subway. That entrance, I later discovered, is nowhere near as grand as the main zoo entrance by the parking lots. Families with young kids accounted for most of the visitors that day – so assuming that most of these travel via car, the hierarchy of entrances seemed to make sense.

Entering via the main entrance feels like one is approaching the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States; entering through the tree-lined, slightly disheveled Asia Gate feels more like one is meandering through a national park.

The Zoo is basically two huge loops, one long loop around the outside and a shorter one within that for visitors to walk around (or shuttle or monorail ride, if you pay extra – and I’m sure a lot of families do). While there’s lots to see along the way, designated stops occur along the trails by way of benches, clearings, different types of fences and all kinds of media. These stops provide a gathering place for visitors to relax, read, interact and learn in their groups, and create opportunities for catch-ups. Unlike what I observed in the museums, visitors tend not to leave these spots until everyone has arrived.

Each stop at the Bronx Zoo is a different experience, and this works really well. I felt a sense of information overload by the end of many exhibits, but I was never bored in the next exhibit as a result.The tigers exhibit was awesome, and people stayed in there for a long time. Here’s why:

  • It enabled visitors to get super-close to a real tiger. A tiger was sleeping right up against the hip-level glass, not two inches away from our fingertips, and a toddler’s dad plonked her on a ledge at the visitor side of the glass where she “stroked” the tiger as it slept.
  • It encouraged interaction. Once you get close to the tigers as the toddler did, there’s a ton of education to be had via a number of interactive exhibits – jump on the poacher’s truck and explore; watch a video of prominent public figures (Bill Clinton, Mayor Bloomberg, Jerry Orbach, Glenn Close), along with kids, discuss why they love tigers and why they must be saved; a donation area where you can donate a coin and hear a tiger growl, or donate a bill and hear a tiger ROAR!

For most, I think, the Bronx Zoo is a full day out. That’s good, because it’s kind of expensive – $16 per adult for general admission, and $27 for the “full experience,” which includes the monorail and entrance to attractions like the gorillas and Dora the Explorer’s 4D (?!) experience. There are numerous cafes, restrooms, seats and stops along the way for tired families to relax, chat and be educated.

M5 Musings

“If you do not ring the bell by pressing on the yellow strip, you will have the pleasure of continuing to ride with me.” – M5 bus driver, November 8, 2009

On a perfectly brisk and sunny Sunday morning, the kind of day on which I can’t help but feel happy as a clam despite feeling the effects of a long night of festivities, I boarded the M5 bus at Houston and LaGuardia with Lucas Zavala, Sarah Dahnke, Mike Cohen and Sebastian Buys. Armed with coffee, cameras and sketch pads, we sat in the elevated area towards the rear of the bus for the optimum vantage point on the world beyond the windows.

The bus driver smiled and chatted as we boarded along with two other passengers, both in seemingly good spirits. The bus felt warm and cozy.

Our first conversation of the trip focused on frozen desserts. The sight of a Tasti D-Lite store set me off on a deprecation of the low-fat, low-sugar dessert which isn’t altogether the healthful alternative to ice cream that it pretends to be. Lucas recommended Yogurtland, a frozen yogurt establishment in the West Village, as the best frozen dessert in town (I keep meaning to check out Yogurtland sometime soon – maybe now that I’ve written it down, I’ll finally make the trip!). I countered that the Nocciola gelato at L’Arte Del Gelato, with its impeccably clean taste and smooth consistency, is the best frozen dessert that the city has to offer, particularly if paired with a scoop of a tangy, fruity sorbet such as Frutti di Bosco (mixed berry), Pera (pear) and Limone Arancia (lemon-orange).

We touched upon the merits of some of New York’s other greatest frozen desserts including Sedutto frozen yogurt, Grom gelato and Haagen Dazs ice cream – and then the discussion steered back to frozen dessert chains. We unanimously agreed upon the need for a Dairy Queen somewhere around here, but took comfort in the fact that there are at least a few Carvels in the city. Can one ever get enough of Carvel’s amazing chocolate crunchies?

I’ve lived in New York City for five years, perhaps not long enough to consider myself a “true” New Yorker, but I think I may get there someday. I never expected to stick around for more than two or three years. Here I am, five years, two jobs, four apartments and countless ups and downs later, and this city continues to intrigue, amaze, surprise and excite me every day. There’s always something around the corner that I just can’t bear to miss, and I’ve begun to wonder how on earth I could ever make the decision to leave this place.

I took a few notes while on the trip – mostly of signs and phrases I saw along the way. The sign on a florist shop in Chelsea boasted a Bouquet-a-Week Club. I love the sight of fresh flowers, but I always like to go to the bodega and pick out my own (or have those who know me select them on my behalf). The sign made me wonder, who subscribes to a service that provides them with a bouquet each week. An absent or lazy significant other? Or maybe the curation is better than one would do oneself. I’m skeptical.

As the bus passed by my favorite gelato place, a former boyfriend’s apartment, the office of my first job, and the salon I once frequented for eyebrow threading, I began to comprehend the relationship I’ve developed with New York through the personal meanings and experiences I’ve attached to places and things throughout the city.

Since moving to the East Village and starting at ITP, I rarely make the trip uptown, save for the occasional trip to the Upper West Side. My friend Luke lives on 95th and West End. Luke is good people. A month or so ago, he kindly agreed to take the fifth role in a movie project I worked on with Michael Edgcumbe, Patricia Adler and Poram Lee for Marianne’s Comm Lab class. Luke displayed the patience of a saint on the day of our shoot, and was pretty much the only member of the cast with the slightest hint of acting skills.

Upon arriving at 179th street bus terminal, we were eager to stretch our legs. I suggested that we stroll west towards the Hudson to see if we could find the Little Red Lighthouse beneath the George Washington Bridge.

The sidewalks between the 179th Street bus terminal and the nearby park are scattered profusely with dog droppings, to the point where we practically had to adopt hopscotch moves to avoid stepping on the stuff. The varying sizes of the droppings suggested several sources. I continue to wonder why the dog owners of Washington Heights don’t clean up after their canines. Is it something in the air? Is there some common personal trait among residents of the area that makes them disinclined to dispose of their dogs’ poop? Is there a single irresponsible dog walker who fails to clean up after his or her charges bomb the curb?

At Riverside and 181st Street, we stopped for some time at a viewing point. It was quite the Kodak moment. We leaned against the wall overlooking the Hudson River to take pictures, watch boats meander by, marvel at the scale of the George Washington bridge and imagine what it would be like to own numerous sets of dentures like America’s first president, which led to the sharing of personal dental experiences.

A few years ago, I learned that I had seven wisdom teeth. I have no idea how this happened – none of my family members have experienced abnormal teeth counts. Six of the teeth were removed in two operations that took place three weeks apart. To lessen the possibility of permanent nerve damage, the oral surgeon elected to give me numerous novocaine injections instead of general anesthetic, so I was awake and alert for the whole process. I felt no pain, but experienced pressure and discomfort that have made me reluctant to have the seventh wisdom tooth removed. For this reason, I get a slap on the wrist every time I see my dentist.

We observed a convoy of FDNY fire engines with lights and sirens blaring, attempting to navigate their way around a corner onto a quiet one-way street. I’ve always been impressed by fire engine drivers’ skillfulness when it comes to reversing their vehicles, but these guys displayed particular dexterity as they backed the trucks around the tight corner, which was made even tighter than usual due to road construction.

When the fire engines disappeared out of view, our hunger pangs kicked in. We decided to rethink searching for the lighthouse, and headed back to the 179th Street bus terminal. With stomachs growling, we re-boarded the M5 downtown.

In contrast to our journey uptown hours before, the M5 filled up immediately for the downtown trip. The driver was gruff and abrupt with a female passenger seeking directions, and snapped at a young gentleman who inserted his Metrocard into the reader the wrong way. After what seemed like an eternity in heavy traffic, we hopped off around 131st Street and walked west to Dinosaur BBQ on 12th Avenue.

In spite of the hour-long wait at Dinosaur, Mike managed to snag us a table outside almost immediately. The sun had set, but we welcomed the breeze on our faces. Over barbecue ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, macaroni and cheese and tasty microbrews, we recounted our trip through the pictures, notes and random things observed over the course of the day. There was unanimous agreement that we had no idea where to begin writing for the M5 bus assignment.