My intention was to give the dreamlike impression of floating through a city full of people frozen in time, caught Pompeii-like, at a particular moment of thought, expression, or activity…a film to be viewed 100 years from now.
Street, a new video by the British-born artist James Nares, forms the centerpiece of this exhibition. Over the course of a week in September 2011, Nares—a New Yorker since 1974—recorded sixteen hours of footage of people on the streets of Manhattan from a moving car using a high-definition camera usually used to record fast-moving subjects such as speeding bullets and hummingbirds. He then greatly slowed his source material, editing down the results to one hour of steady, continuous motion and scoring it with music for twelve-string guitar composed and performed by his friend Thurston Moore, co-founder of Sonic Youth.
Accompanying Street in its New York premiere are two galleries of objects from the Museum's permanent collection, chosen by Nares to provide different points of entry into aspects of his work. The artist's selection spans 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1987—from the first urban places to contemporary cities—though not every object has a one-to-one correspondence with the video. A few, for example, are meant to evoke the dynamism and abstract energy of the metropolis or to show early attempts at capturing motion in photography and film. Both video and installation are meant to suggest that looking at people in the city—their irreducible gaits and gestures, how they leave traces like signatures across the page of public spaces before vanishing—is one of the eternal wellsprings of the creative impulse.