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Where Goes Our Love

James Kolstad

This project is conceived as a mobile spatial “experience”: Supplied with a mobile phone with rich media capabilities, the participant travels the city, guided by an unknown woman who continuously disappears and reappears in both the physical and digital domains.

The narrative of this project is loosely based on a true story from 1897: the body of a young woman was found floating in the Central Park Reservoir, victim of an apparent suicide. Newspaper accounts described—or imagined—bits and pieces of her life and her death, but in the end the story remained a puzzle. The intangible and mysterious spaces that one can imagine from these accounts serve, in this project, as a kind of analogue to the invisible, curious digital space that we encounter everyday through communications technologies. We are anchored always in this world—we sit, we stand, we walk—but we also travel through a web of digital networks, this so-called “virtual” space where we go to get information, encounter other people, communicate and share with friends and family. Increasingly we are not only in a physical place, we are simultaneously elsewhere. Anchored and floating, here and there, real and digital: these terms begin to articulate the kind of hybrid space that we inhabit in a networked age.

Introducing mobile technologies both complicates and illuminates these hybrid spaces. They are with us everywhere we go, and no matter what place we might find ourselves in, we can always simultaneously be somewhere else: in a space where we talk to a distant friend, reaching across the Web to gather information, uploading or downloading or sending digital files. When we communicate to an elsewhere, we are both here and there, as part of our attention is devoted to “there”. In this project, video, audio, text, and voice communications conspire to create a dislocating effect for the participant, blurring the boundaries between here and there, physical and digital, distance and intimacy.

Adults and older teenagers who are interested in and able to take a journey through Manhattan involving ferries, buses, subways, and walking. They should also have some familiarity with navigating and using media functions on a cellphone.

User Scenario
The user is given a mobile phone with rich media capabilities (ability to play video and audio [ideally streaming], MMS, SMS etc.), and a set of stereo headphones (ideally wireless). He or she receives basic instruction on the phone's use and the route he or she will be taking. The various media the user encounters through the phone will both move the narrative forward and provide "prompts" or cues by which to navigate through urban space. As the user listens to audio narration by the mysterious woman that s/he pursues, s/he also watches video that positions the woman in space: the user may see her in other locations, he or she may also see "through her eyes" at a specific location. Throughout this audio-visual experience, the user is interrupted by text messages, MMS messages, and phone calls from the woman herself. The user will also occasionally see the woman "live and in-person", but always from an unreachable distance (through the use of two actresses playing body doubles to each other; allowing for the woman to sometimes appear to be in two places at one time).

Starting in Lower Manhattan, the user makes his or way through the streets to the Wall Street ferry landing at Pier 11. There, s/he boards a SeaStreak ferry to 34th St. From the ferry landing at 34th St., the user takes an M34 bus to the corner of 34th/Park Ave. The user walks to the uptown 6 train at 33rd St., and takes the subway to 103rd St. From there, the user walks to Central Park, entering at 102nd/Fifth Ave., and follows the woman to the Reservoir, entering at around 96th St. The user is guided to the North Gatehouse, where s/he discovers that the woman has thrown herself into the Reservoir, heartbroken that her lover (the user) did not meet her there.