City Footsteps Piece – Mike Rinaldi

by | Sep 27, 2016 | Artwork #1: Score, Projects

So far, one of the main themes of this class has been on the definition of art. Allan Kaprow’s Happenings and George Maciunas’s Fluxus movement challenged the traditional definition of ‘art’ and sought to explore how far they can stretch art as something to be marveled. The most important lesson I learned from some of Kaprow’s Happenings was that activities that do not make very much sense on the surface, sometimes are not meant to make sense. The motivation behind some of these Happenings was the effect that it created on the participants and on the observers. The picture of people licking jam off a car hood immediately comes to mind. That looks unpleasant to me, and something I would not do myself, but it is definitely something I would stop and look at. I tried continuously to think about what kind of metaphor this act would represent, but nothing immediately came to mind. And then it hit me: sometimes the ulterior motive behind these acts is to just perform an art piece. These pieces were being performed for the effect that they created and not for anything else. It was very confusing for me, because I have never thought this way before. But in some way, it did make sense. People taking everyday objects, things that were unconventional to use in art, and utilizing them in interesting ways only for the desired effect on all parties involved. This goes hand-in-hand with the Fluxus movement as well; attempting to blur the line between art and life, and trying to make real life an art form in of itself. FluxKits gave everyone the opportunity to be an artist, with cheap materials that were easy to access, sometimes objects you had in your own house. They wanted art to be immersed into the environment and everyday life. And thus, creating an art piece that somehow involved daily life was one of my main goals coming in to this assignment.
Reading Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit only reinforced the fact that a very important aspect of art is the effect that the piece has on the performer or observer. Some poems were deliberately impossible, like ‘Throwing Piece’ (due to the nature of gravity) and Announcement Piece II (you cannot send a moving announcement if you are dead). But surely throwing a stone into the air as high as you can gives you some sort of feeling, whether it be futility or exhilaration.
So I wanted to find an act that the motivation behind it would be to have some sort of effect on the performer or observer, without it being an explicit metaphor for something. Looking further into Grapefruit, I found Walking Piece, in which you tried to mimic the footsteps of a person in front of you. The effect I thought this piece would give was a better view of someone else’s life, because you got to experience how fast they walked (if they were rushed or calm) and what they were doing. I liked this theme, so I wanted to create a similar piece, but on a larger scale because naturally, the city of Boston allows that. So why not get a better view of a city’s life, instead of a person’s life? So my piece became:

Sit in a crowded area for a day.
Observe each person that passes.
Count their footsteps.

This fulfilled both of my goals of experiencing daily life, and causing an effect on the performer (noticing the relative tempo of certain city areas). After presentation in class and some feedback, I tweaked the piece to:

Sit in a crowded area for five minutes at a time.
1) In the morning
2) In the afternoon
3) In the evening
Observe each person that passes.
Count their footsteps.

I like the idea of getting a general slice of Boston, and the multiple time frames with five minutes at a time gives me a similar effect to my original piece, but it takes up less time. The ‘one day’ time frame was just unreasonable and was unnecessary, so I removed it. The motivation behind that was due to the many impossible pieces in Grapefruit, but the time frame does not really add much to the piece.
9:37AM Ruggles T station, area near CharlieCard machines
476 steps
-When there was one person, I could get into their frame of mind, which was rushed (for the most part)
-When there were two people, I could keep up with counting their footsteps.
-When there was a whole crowd of people, I struggled to keep up. I was just ticking numbers in my head very rapidly.
-While I was doing this, I didn’t notice that I was cold (I noticed this both before and after the time frame). I was only focusing on the people and the counting. This actually surprised me.
-There were periods of emptiness and periods of crowdedness, related to the bus schedule. Some buses were full but most were not.

1:22PM Ruggles T Station, area near CharlieCard machines
302 steps
-There were significantly less people here this time. I had to look around instead of focusing my eyes on the spot I did last time.
-However there was a somewhat continuous flow of people along the main passageways through Ruggles.

5:23PM Ruggles T Station, area near CharlieCard machines
568 steps
-A lot more people than the morning shift
-I sat down just as a bus arrived, a very large amount of people passing by in about 2-3 minutes. But after that, it calmed down
-Again, I didn’t notice I was cold, I only focused on the numbers.