Concerned New Yorkers, an artist collective responsible for “Monty Burns for Mayor” and “Park 51”, have launched a new project called I-Call-NY. They’ve put up flyers around Manhattan asking people to call in and leave a voicemail with a story about their favorite place in the city. Each message is then assembled into a virtual map. We spoke with Concerned New Yorkers Boris Rasin and Kenny Komer to learn more.
How long has the project gone on?
Boris Rasin: I guess for a few months. In the beginning of the summer we put up some flyers. We asked people to tell us about their favorite place and why. We kind of wanted to revamp the question; now it’s “tell us a story about your favorite place.”
What kind of response have you gotten?
We’ve only gotten a handful of responses in the past few days. One person talked about how the Verrazano Bridge is a place in New York that seems kind of ominous, but it’s actually a place to escape the city. People call in to talk about their favorite places; sometimes those are obvious and make sense, but sometimes they don’t. People can like places for really personal reasons that might not make total sense to someone else.
What’s the goal of the project?
It’s sort of like an oral history/interactive kind of experiment. We want to make user generated content. The end result will be to have an interactive map of stories that people can share with each other. You know, leave a message, and take something back from it.
Kenny Komer: The initial desire of this project was to create a sort of user-created map that wasn’t necessarily filtered through magazines or editors or any kind of normal way, to find out about cool places in New York, because I think it’s always getting watered down.
Have there been any particularly popular places?
Boris Rasin: People like Coney Island. But for the most part people like to think of an original place. When we first started, people were pretty reticent to reveal their places, because they wanted to keep them private. Like, say I wanted to talk about a really small park on Hudson Street that I’ve maybe seen 10 people in. I would be afraid to talk about that to potentially hundreds of people who might start coming to it.
It’s an interesting project because you’re asking people to reveal places that are so secret and special to them. People in New York are really private about the places they love.
Kenny Komer: Each one has been pretty unique; there hasn’t been any kind of trend. It’s gone from a furniture depot on the Bowery, to someone’s apartment, to places in Staten Island. It’s been sort of all over the place, and the more responses we get, the more varied we get. We’ve put up flyers all over Manhattan, and we’d like to put them up in more boroughs.
Any plans for future projects?
I don’t know yet, maybe more specific questions. Maybe more personal questions. We wanted to have a question that people would respond to. We really focused on making people comfortable enough to call in, even paying a lot of attention to the flyer. In the end we decided against putting our Concerned New Yorkers logo on the flyers; we were afraid if we did it would look like more of an ad. We made it look really homemade, and people have responded to that.
I think the interesting thing about this project is that everything was free at our disposable. We used Google Maps, Google voice. And we made these old form flyers, the way people would before Craigslist. We’re kind of creating a virtual map.
Boris Rasin: In a funny way I think we’re not getting enough phone calls because the “I” looks like a “1”. [ed: It’s an uppercase “i”]
I-Call-NY is done in conjunction with Art in Odd Places. Call (832) I-Call-NY to talk about your favorite place in the city.