Back to list

Watch This Space: getting in touch

April 9, 2021

This month on Medium, getting in touch with ourselves and each other, past and present.

For the past year and change, we have been apart and yet perhaps more frequently in touch. With barriers of physical distance removed (to a certain degree) by technology, something else seems to have been erected in its place. This new kind of interface was a main topic of discussion in our recent At The Table virtual salon with Ofri Cnaani. How do we keep in touch in a contactless space, in an age of hyper-communication? Can we survive without touch, without skin? What are the new measures of closeness?

We also revisit Ofri’s 2013 public project, Moon Guardians, which used new media technology in the form of in-situ video projections to uncover and reanimate the history of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. The titular Guardians were long-term residents who had witnessed successive, sweeping changes to the neighborhood; some had already been pushed out by the serious commercialization and gentrification of the recent past, some are still in place, hanging on. The nightly projections were otherworldly, the past lives revealed, very grounding.

Reconsidering this project, we have to ask what does site-specific art mean, now? Public art that is socially engaged stresses the specificity of place, of community, of connection. Is an Internet connection the same thing? What’s more, access to the tools of digital communication is far from universal, however democratizing and liberating it may seem and be touted as; Wi-Fi isn’t actually a given.

Also tapping into the spiritual power of connection, specifically via intuition, ancestral knowledge, and the cycles of the moon, 2020 Engaging Artists fellow Juliana Luna recaps her practice this past year. Her Aluna Method is a system for holistic understanding of our emotional bodies through a lunar perspective, with guidance from Brazilian Yoruba traditions and an African-centered framework and in defiance of colonial, patriarchal hegemony. A very body-based practice, Luna’s dual emphasis on the somatic and the spiritual forces the question of what is really holding us back from self-awareness? What sources of knowledge can we better learn to listen to and cultivate?

Plus, another interview from A Year of Public Water, Mary Mattingly’s public project exploring the complex history of New York City’s drinking watershed, in which writer Camilla Calhoun recounts the story of the upstate communities literally washed away in order to meet NYC’s water supply needs.

And join the conversation — follow More Art on Medium and Instagram as we share updates on current projects and revisit past work to better understand our present moment and what’s to come.

Header image: Hello, it’s me (2015–17) — For this collaborative multimedia project, Hidemi Takagi worked with minority older adults living in gentrifying neighborhoods in New York City (Harlem, Crown Heights, and Bushwick). The final installations incorporated recent photographic portraits of those participants, scanned portraits from the past, a video and audio recording of the subjects speaking about their rich lives and experience. Takagi was a 2015 Engaging Artist-in-Residence with More Art and received a seed grant to continue her work with senior citizens from Chelsea’s Hudson Guild Community Center, which included working on a multimedia project with Yachiyo, photographed here, a Japanese American resident of Harlem who survived the United States’ Japanese American Internment Camps of WWII.