Wednesday, April 06, 2011

New York Values

New Yorkers: How do you make one of the world's largest cities into a community? First, you show its residents what they have in common.

New York is a city of over 8 million people, and each one of them values something. The particulars of what they value may differ dramatically-- sometimes even conflict dramatically-- but inasmuch as each New Yorker holds his or her values dear and endeavors to make life meaningful through them, there is a common thread that binds together strangers and friends alike. From Manhattan to Queens, from Staten Island to Brooklyn and the Bronx, for all of the residents of all of the neighborhoods in between, there is a communal bond waiting to be realized. But how do we make that latent community visible? Here's how:

One single image of one single New Yorker with one single value at a time.

About a month ago, I initiated a project that I called the American Values project, in which I asked people to write down a value that they hold dear, take a picture of themselves holding that sign, and send it to me. (You can read more about the project here, and see the original video here.) The motivation behind my call was to show that this thing we call "American Values" is not only more complex than we sometimes think it is, but also an excellent way of showing how we are bound together as a community not only by, but also in spite of, our differences. The rhetorical use of "American Values" often divides us, rather than bringing us together. That's unfortunate, because one of the things that can transform strangers into communities is the ability to acknowledge differences, maximize the potential of that diversity, and create ad-hoc communal bonds through the fundamental recognition that the VERY ACT OF EVALUATING is itself a powerful tie that binds.

As people began submitting their images in response to my call for American Values, I realized that a virtual community was being created before my eyes. Now, I'm looking to do that again, only in a more limited scope. So, the following is a call for YOU, NEW YORKERS.


(1) Think of some value that you hold dear. (It doesn't have to be what you consider a "New York" value, just something that YOU value. If you want to see some examples of photos I've already received, check out this slide show.)

(2) Write your value down on a sign.

(3) Take a photo of yourself with that sign, preferably in some kind of context that illustrates the value you are holding.

(4) Email your image to me

It's really that simple.

I'll be exhibiting this project as a part of the Festival of Ideas for a New City at Tally Beck Contemporary in a little less than a month on May 7, so I need your submissions ASAP (but no later than April 27). If you're a New Yorker, please take part. If you're not a New Yorker, please pass on this call to New Yorkers that you know.


Big things happen one small idea, one small image, one small person with one (big or small) value at a time.

UPDATE: The New York Values exhibit was a success! Check out some pictures from the gallery reception held on May 8!

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