Training – Week One

My baby is now embryonic, the first breaths of tangible form surfaced from the process evolution. This rudimentary stage spawned some crucial developments for the further exploration of the work’s thesis. I had little expectations but I am thrilled with the initial results.

The photog and I took about 2.5 hours to take a little under 500 photos. We met at Girard station on the EL Blue Line Subway and proceeded to test shoot at the places I’ve scouted for the project. It was around noon on Saturday and the train was pretty well occupied. Pangs of excitement coursed through my body at the sight of the camera, for it was time for all these fantastic ideas that have been pleasantly haunting me to become reality.

We boarded the train and funny enough there wasn’t much room to sit and there was a passenger that had his mobile phone volume up very loud blaring some hip hop music. The photog and I made jokes about it and wondered what motivates a person to so nonchalantly decide to fill this restricted environment with noise they feel is acceptable if not appropriate to a situation in which you are surrounded by unsuspecting strangers. You could see how uncomfortable most everyone was, the way they grimaced, rolled their eyes, let out deep sighs, shifted in their seats…

We made it to the first location, 8th & Market, and promptly began shooting. There are these very modern benches at this station that always catch my eye when I ride past. I don’t stop much at 8th & Market station but I used to almost everyday when I lived over the bridge in New Jersey and had to use PATCO to get to work. I haven’t yet put the time and effort into finding out who designed them but I did a little research and found some reactions to them on a blog that announced their arrival. These are comment quotes from commuters:

“i don’t really like them, i can’t help but see all the places where people CAN’T sit.”

“Do these serve a purpose that the older benches did not (besides looking “modern”)? I’d definitely try sitting on the top parts in the middle so I could let my feet hang. :)”

“Interesting design. Maybe they’re for ‘leaners’, as well as ‘sitters.’ I’ll have to go and try them out.”

Here we see the commonality of emotional reaction to space design and utilization. The photog and I discussed the benches as we approached them and he said they were cool but then referenced the mid section of the bench that is a waste of space but convenient for leaning against or sitting on a higher level. When I went to go sit on it, I was comfortably timid, confused as to where to sit (I too had a desire to sit in the middle) and I wondered if it would be comfortable. Most of the benches in the subways are pretty pedestrian and do not have any sort of aesthetics, only functional design. I worried that the metal might be cold and uncomfortable but surprisingly it wasn’t. I sat on one side and tried my best to act “natural” as the photog started shooting my “natural” movements. I was taking note of the major muscle groups I was using and the isolations that were derivative of my sitting and waiting for the train. I then exaggerated these structures and moved around the space mixing “natural” movement with “abstract” movement through this extended exaggeration process.

When I was doing what I call the “rubbernecking” movement that is very common among commuters, there were other subway patrons who were engaged in similar movements, sporadically leaning over to peer down the tracks, anticipating the arrival of the next train. It was like a dance. I also worked the extensions of the body that occur during leaning against certain structures in the station environment.

The next stop was 13th Street station. I frequent this station because it is adjacent to the gayborhood and it connects to the trolley lines and it is close to the broad street line as well. We took some shots of me sitting at the bench, this time is was very square and nondescript and I didn’t feel inspired to do much “abstract” movement in the space.

We then went to the turnstiles and I started with “abstract” movement first, then returned to “natural” movement and exhibited a scenario of jumping the turnstile. We got some good shots from this.

13th Station is filled with many different kinds of visual treasures. I love the tile mosaics on the walls and there are so many varying degrees of them due to the lack of renovation and the appropriation of connecting train and trolley lines and systems. We walked towards the next location and found ourselves intrigued by all the underground nooks and crannies. There were sparse pedestrians around and there was a dense uneasiness in the air, the publicly private space can make you feel vulnerable, I think we got some good shots of that theory.

The last stop was the underground where the Broad Street line has a station between Walnut and Locust. I have always loved this space. Many Philly denizens use this large open space to walk underground to escape the cold or rain, while we were shooting I saw someone riding their bike down there. Here we played with negative space and desolation and the isolation of restricted space and its connection to the outside world.

It became easier to exhibit these “abstract” versus “natural” movements after a while. I am hoping it will be easy to study the movement structures of the other models as they are experiencing this project phase. Tomorrow we start shooting another model who has danced for me in the past. I’m very much looking forward to making more art.

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