Living in the Union Square area is appealing for many reasons, of course. There’s the dozens of first-rate restaurants and bars, suitable for all occasions, from acclaimed high-end spots such as Gotham Bar and Grill and Union Square Cafe to excellent cheap eat joints like Dos Toros and Num Pang. Union Square residents have extremely easy access to public transportation, with the R, N, Q, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, L, A, C, E, B, D, F, M trains all right there. And then there’s the great Union Square Greenmarket, the biggest and best in New York City, open four days a week in Union Square Park, all year round. Plus, residents of Union Square can take advantage of all of the educational and cultural benefits offered up by next-door NYU and The New School/Parsons School of Design. Like, for instance, the fun and provocative exhibition currently on display in Parsons’ main gallery, The Public Private.
The Public Private exhibition at Parsons examines the conflicting, shifting boundaries between our public and private realms, which have become ever-more malleable in the age of social media sites and things like Google street view and security cameras blanketing our cities. Who has the right to use, to view, to sell, to own, images of ourselves? When and where do we need to surrender our assumption of privacy, and when should we fight to remain anonymous? What are the long-term psychological implications on our sense of personal identity in a world where we’re constantly on display? If you’ve ever thought about any of these issues, you’re bound to find the Public Private at Parsons an interesting exhibition, well worth popping into especially if you’re a Union Square resident, but also for anyone passing through the area… which, considering its centrality, is probably all of you.
The Public Private at Parsons is a group show, featuring about a dozen pieces from an international group of artists, many of which have never before been shown in the United States. There’s a lot of good stuff here, but I especially liked Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico’s Face to Facebook, for which the duo “stole” a million different profile pictures from the social network, sorted them by expression (“funny”, “smug”, “sly”, etc.), and then used them to populate a fake dating site, Lovely Faces, which you can play with here.
Similarly, if even slightly more creepy, is Eva and Franco Mattes’ piece, The Others, a video installation which cycles through 10,000 photos the Mattes hacked from random people’s hard drives–a software glitch gave them remote access to personal computers–while songs play, all of which were also grabbed from their “victims.” And I also really loved Cirio’s Street Ghosts, silhouetted images of blurred-out people taken from Google street views, blown up to “actual size”, and then pasted onto the building’s exterior.
The Public Private will be at Parsons through April 17, in the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery, on the ground floor on 13th Street just west of Fifth Avenue. Lots more info can be found here.