It’s a Personal Journey

A stationary item is, by definition, static. It doesn’t change on its own, except maybe a slow and steady decay untraceable to the eye. The red bleachers in Times Square are a stationary item. Day in and day out, the stairs don’t change, though the rain, the snow, and the sun may cover it in different elements and experiences. What changes, sometimes irregularly, and sometimes according to season, is the hoards of people who come to inhabit the stairs. Sometimes they stay five minutes, and sometimes they shuffle in, take a seat, and leave an hour later. But the red stairs are just 26 steps of red and clear glass.  So where is the magic in staying there for longer than 5 minutes?

Time, regardless of how the space has changed, can change people’s perceptions. In fact, it’s people’s perceptions that are more powerful than simply how the space has changed, in some cases. This is heavily exemplified in the documentary film, Greetings From the Salton Sea as, many of the interviewees of the film appear to have very different opinions on the Salton Sea, perhaps because of their long time residency near the sea. Despite the ads and the testimonials of a sea that was once a getaway resort, the reality of the decrepit chemical filled wasteland the sea is becoming seems to be unclear to these loyal residents. I have come across so many people who’s visits to Times Square have ranged from their first time ever, to their 4th time in the city, to having a job in the TKTS booth four times a week. Their perceptions of Times Square are different; they’re perceptions are perhaps changed by becoming jaded old-hat New Yorkers, or perhaps their perceptions have continued to be the once-a year visitor who marvels everytime. But overtime they visit, Times Square, the demographic makeup of the guests on the stairs, and the length of the line at the TKTS booth will never be the same. It’s fascinating how the rest of these people’s personal lives and circumstance pump into and determine their perception of this slowly evolving place. The stairs, like the Salton Sea, are never the same; the stairs will wear down with time. But the view will always be new for someone sitting on those stairs.

In Brian Massumi’s “Autonomy of the Affect”, Massumi states an important encompassing idea on the the differing affects of a volume. “It would appear that the strength or duration of an image’s effect is not logically connected to the content in any straightforward way […]. What is meant here by the content of the image is its indexing to conventional meanings in an intersubjective context, its sociolinguistic qualification. This indexing fixes the determinate qualities of the image; the strength or duration of the image’s effect could be called its intensity” (24). Who’s to say that Times Square’s affect isn’t due to the spectacle and the content of the space, but rather the personal intensity that one comes into the space with? Each human, visitor, worker, or presence breathes life into the space, and from the bleachers you are held at the top of that inhale; you see all of the factors moving around you at lightning speed, but you hold still and take it all in with the filters of your personal being.

~ by emilylho on October 31, 2015.

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