I visited NYC for just two days and fell in love with a place that is fascinating and intimidating at the same time. NYC has been named the ‘Cultural Capital of the World’ as well as the ‘Global Power City’, … but I found it to be, first and foremost, a Concrete Jungle.
With such a short time in hand I spent my time in NYC in my favourite phenomenological way: wandering the streets and parks and getting a feel of the place. I rested, listened, watched, walked, not just as a participant observer but as a wanderer. In so doing following the rhythms that the people and the city gave me. Its through this approach to the city that I felt part of an animalistic fight for survival somewhere between the lion and the gazelle.
|On 7th Avenue – following the crowds.|
In walking along those streets it was hard not to be persuaded by the fried foods being sold on the corners or not to be allured by those ever-changing advertisements, colourful posters and glittery signs. So I felt transported by the rush for the new, the fast, the immediate while the accelerating cars and fast moving masses seemed to be leading me right to the centre of the allure: Time Square.
This was a place where fantasy became reality, where the capitalist heroes of Micky Mouse and Spiderman came live, and where the shimmering screens protracted their facade in an acultural experiment that blurs all living life in front of the power of capitalism.
Times Square is the point in which the overwhelming affects reach their peak: where every screen is trying to capture your attention with constantly changing coloured visuals. Impulses came at me from every side and affecting all the senses. I felt this intense flow of energy devoid of rhythm or melody: it was loud intensity.
As I was trying to draw Times Square with oil pastels, which implies drawing close attention to all the details and information flow, I realized that I wasn’t representing nearly close to the amount of information that was coming at me in one moment. All this intensity was smart and studied to push in me a kind of primordial instinct, an immediate call for consumption drawing me to every screen.
I felt intimidated by the over boasting power of the signs, by their power-of-capture of attention, and their force in shaping an ontology of the immediate and of the unsatisfiable.
What I found frightening is that I found little escape from this resounding intensity and noise. The NY-based blog Tracy’s New York Life says, “in NY you can never be truly alone”. This can be good, but also overwhelming for thosw who want to find time for peace, privacy and solitude. Even when you are inside the 840 acre Central Park, where lovers on the romantic boats can overlook the canopy of skyscrapers over the canopy of trees, one is constantly reminded of the inescapable resounding intensity of the NY life.
I felt that the city’s call of intensity is similar to the calls of the animals in the jungle. If you are living in the jungle there is no escape from the jungle: you must fight for survive and be totally present in that place to not be eaten out. This allegory of the concrete jungle is not far from the truth, in NYC I saw a place inescapably linked with the jungle life (or the one that us westerners envision it to be), where men and women in suits must fight for survive, where you must be truly scared of being eaten by the animal you are competing with. Its a society of the immediate, where corporate bodies study people’s primordial instincts to catch their eye and sell their products, just like coloured flowers or carnivore plants attract small insects.
From this point of view it seems like we got things very close to the way things are in nature. In all this, I prefer my view from Central Park, observing all the animals fight from the comfort of a beautiful view next to the sun.