James Nares’ Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the most important unwritten rules of living in this magnificent, packed-like-sardines city is that, even in the most crowded of our public spaces (which is all of them), we don't intrude upon each other's privacy. We don't make eye contact for too long on the subway, or stare into each other's windows. For too long.
We don't chit chat. We let people cry on the street, or argue, or hug and cuddle with each other, without comment or interference. It's not that we're unkind, or lacking in compassion… really, the opposite is far more often the case. It's just that, because we're surrounded by thousands of people all day long, New Yorkers quickly learn to give everyone else space for their own thoughts and their own lives, even when we're standing two inches away from each other on the 6 train.
James Nares' Slow Motion Film of NYC at the Met
Which is one of the reasons why this hour-long video Street, James Nares' super-slow-motion movie of NYC pedestrians now playing at the Met museum, is so mesmerizing. Here, in glorious high definition, is that rare opportunity to really look at your fellow New Yorkers just going about their lives. Nares shot Street during a single week in September 2011, 16 hours of footage in all, using the sort of state-of-the-art camera usually reserved for subjects like hummingbirds, and speeding bullets. His technique was simple: point the camera outside the passenger window of a car, ride around town, film whatever happens.
NYC Streets Documented in Nares' Film
Which is, of course, not much. People hail cabs and duck out the rain. Children skip and laugh. There are stoop sitters and wall leaners and smokers. Workers and shoppers and tourists. Sometimes they notice Nares's camera, and look back at us; most of the time they don't know or don't care that they're being filmed. The slo-mo effect of Street at the Met is cool, and the permission to stare at your fellow citizens is satisfyingly, taboo-breaking voyeuristic. But probably the real reason we sat through the entire hour of Street was the delicious possibility that we might spot ourselves up there on the screen, or, almost as exciting, someone we know. It didn't happen, but the anticipation made us a lot more patient than we usually are with such things. Street is definitely worth seeing, especially with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore's haunting, hour-long jam for twelve-string guitar as the score. And be sure to check out the two adjoining galleries, which feature relevant works from the Met's collection, curated and with occasional notes by Nares.
James Nares: Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Street will be on exhibition at the Met through May 27. The Met is open Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The museum is located on the Upper East Side on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. As always, the price of admission to the Met is "suggested." For more information about James Nares: Street please see the Met's website!