stillspotting, nyc: manhattan, is the second of five installations that will be presented over two years by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as a way to take museum experiences to the streets. Titled To a Great City, the Manhattan edition is the result of collaboration between Snøhetta, the architecture firm designing the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, and Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. The team worked to create urban spaces where visitors can explore and experience varying levels of stillness amid Manhattan’s cacophony of noises and visual stimulation.
Pärt describes his music as a frame for silence by reducing sounds rather than augmenting them. Like many of his pieces, this commission for the Guggenheim revolves around a central musical tone that frequently reappears throughout the piece. Snøhetta took that idea and found five places around the periphery of Ground Zero that spatially represent a central tone. The firm then created a perception of Pärt’s musical sounds—or absence of—within the selected spaces.
Over the course of two long weekends, Sept. 15-18 and 22-25, people can visit each location starting at the Castle Clinton National Monument in Battery Park. For the admission price of $10 ($8 for Guggenheim members), visitors receive a map, directions, and access to each site. The recommended time allotment for seeing each spot, perhaps more than once, is three hours. Access is granted for the entire day should participants wish to revisit certain places and take note of how the space and music affect them differently based on personal factors such as mood, stress, fatigue, or hunger. According to the Guggenheim staff, “The stillness and seclusion of these spaces heightens awareness and recalibrates one’s senses.”
Several interactive programs were devised to complement the series. The Spatial Information Design Lab at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University developed a mapping study that compares noise with silence and stillness throughout New York City. The students devised ways to collect data about silence and noise and then visualized the data as spatial concepts. A similar study also was done by the photography, video, and related media department graduate students. The maps and videos can be seen online. Over the course of the two-year stillspotting, nyc project, performance group Improv Everywhere will stage unexpected scenes that allow people to explore themes of stillness, silence, and noise in the urban environment. View those performances at youtube.com/guggenheim.
Each edition of stillspotting, nyc will visit a different borough. The first one, Sanatorium, took place in Brooklyn in June 2011. Next up is the Queens version in spring 2012, to be created by the New York-based firm Solid Objectives. Visit stillspotting.guggenheim.org for additional details and news on future editions of the multidisciplinary exhibition.