“The possibility of not working is part of the experiment,” said the jovial person in charge, the Brazilian artist Michel Groisman.
This was one of several focused, simple and pleasantly aimless activities designed by Mr. Groisman as part of the first Elastic City Walks Festival, a 12-day series of artist-led “participatory walks” throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. That term, Elastic City’s specialty, is deliberately broad, encompassing any awareness-heightening way of moving through an urban space, although as the organization’s founder, Todd Shalom, explained, it usually involves starting in one place and, well, going somewhere.
Mr. Groisman’s excursion, however, essentially stayed put. During “Playing With Steps,” as he titled it, we ventured no farther than a few yards east, to a sunnier patch near the square. He was interested in other kinds of pathways: how we move between perceiving our internal and external environments; the lines of communication between people, especially strangers (“the interchange,” he liked to say); cognitive pathways and sensory pathways.
Still, “Playing With Steps” was more physical than cerebral. When we had tired of the foam balls, Mr. Groisman gave each of us a longer plastic tube, this time with a plastic bag tied around each end. Alone and with partners, we used our bodies to press air from one bag into the other, an exercise reminiscent of inhaling and exhaling. We hugged and crumpled and sat on the bags, let them inflate in our arms or used them as pillows. Passers-by lingered at the spectacle of sprawling bodies. Performance art?
With another clever contraption — a pen held vertically by a kind of wooden suspension bridge operated by two people — we drew pictures on big sheets of paper, communicating silently with our partners (no speaking allowed). “Very nice, very nice!” Mr. Groisman exclaimed, admiring the scribbles one pair had produced.
“Playing With Steps” was playtime for grown-ups. And in a city of rapid transit, on foot and otherwise, it was nice to spend some time on the ground.
Source: The New York Times
October 9, 2014
By Siobhan Burke