Sunday, April 24, 2011

American Values Project

Here's a slide show of the images we've gotten so far for the American Values Project. The project has it's own website now, too, where you can submit new photos directly through that site. We're developing a whole new set of plans for this project (and managing to find some money for it as well!) so please keep spreading the word!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

New York Values

New Yorkers: How do you make one of the world's largest cities into a community? First, you show its residents what they have in common.

New York is a city of over 8 million people, and each one of them values something. The particulars of what they value may differ dramatically-- sometimes even conflict dramatically-- but inasmuch as each New Yorker holds his or her values dear and endeavors to make life meaningful through them, there is a common thread that binds together strangers and friends alike. From Manhattan to Queens, from Staten Island to Brooklyn and the Bronx, for all of the residents of all of the neighborhoods in between, there is a communal bond waiting to be realized. But how do we make that latent community visible? Here's how:

One single image of one single New Yorker with one single value at a time.

About a month ago, I initiated a project that I called the American Values project, in which I asked people to write down a value that they hold dear, take a picture of themselves holding that sign, and send it to me. (You can read more about the project here, and see the original video here.) The motivation behind my call was to show that this thing we call "American Values" is not only more complex than we sometimes think it is, but also an excellent way of showing how we are bound together as a community not only by, but also in spite of, our differences. The rhetorical use of "American Values" often divides us, rather than bringing us together. That's unfortunate, because one of the things that can transform strangers into communities is the ability to acknowledge differences, maximize the potential of that diversity, and create ad-hoc communal bonds through the fundamental recognition that the VERY ACT OF EVALUATING is itself a powerful tie that binds.

As people began submitting their images in response to my call for American Values, I realized that a virtual community was being created before my eyes. Now, I'm looking to do that again, only in a more limited scope. So, the following is a call for YOU, NEW YORKERS.


(1) Think of some value that you hold dear. (It doesn't have to be what you consider a "New York" value, just something that YOU value. If you want to see some examples of photos I've already received, check out this slide show.)

(2) Write your value down on a sign.

(3) Take a photo of yourself with that sign, preferably in some kind of context that illustrates the value you are holding.

(4) Email your image to me

It's really that simple.

I'll be exhibiting this project as a part of the Festival of Ideas for a New City at Tally Beck Contemporary in a little less than a month on May 7, so I need your submissions ASAP (but no later than April 27). If you're a New Yorker, please take part. If you're not a New Yorker, please pass on this call to New Yorkers that you know.

Big things happen one small idea, one small image, one small person with one (big or small) value at a time.

UPDATE: The New York Values exhibit was a success! Check out some pictures from the gallery reception held on May 8!

"American Values" Goes To The Big City

For those of you who have been following the development of my "American Values" project, I have exciting news: WE'RE TAKING IT TO NEW YORK CITY!

On May 7th, curator Tally Beck (of Tally Beck Contemporary) and I will exhibit a slightly-more-limited-in-scope version of the American Values project that we're calling "New York Values" at Tally Beck's gallery. The exhibit will be a part of the Festival of Ideas for a New City, which the New Museum is co-organizing along with 10 other collaborators, including the Architectural League, Bowery Poetry Club, C-Lab/Columbia University, the Center for Architecture, The Cooper Union, The Drawing Center, New York University Wagner, PARC Foundation, Storefront for Art and Architecture, and the Swiss Institute. The aim of the festival is "to harness the power of creative community to imagine the future city and explore the ideas destined to shape it." Our project will be one of those creative ideas, and I'm really excited about it.

Here's how the New York Values project will differ from the American Values project: we're going to limit the contributors featured in the exhibit to New Yorkers only. In every other way, however, it's the same idea. So, if you're a New Yorker, please take a moment to check out the call for contributions. If you happen to be a New Yorker who already contributed to the American Values project, send me a short email letting me know to include your image in the New York Values project. And if you know any New Yorkers, please direct them to the New York Values post and encourage them to be a part.

[An aside for my New Yorker friends: I'll be in NYC at the Tally Beck Contemporary gallery on Saturday, May 7th to talk about the project. Please come by and say hello!]

For the non-New-Yorkers who have happened by here, I'm still taking photos for the American Values project. Read here on how you can contribute.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Yes You Can... Be A Part of the "American Values" Project!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to make another (this time, URGENT) call for submissions to the American Values project. The image to your left is a collage of some of the photos I've already recieved. (Go ahead and click on the image. It's a pretty impressive collection, if I do say so myself.) This project has taken on a life of its own recently, so I'm trying to facilitate the growth that it seems to be self-generating. We have almost 100 contributions already and-- at the risk of allowing my reach to exceed my grasp-- I'm aiming to get twice that many. That's 200 contributions. It's going to require some help from you, though.

Here's the thing that I find amazing and humbling and inspirational: this little project has managed to create, almost out of nowhere, its own unexpected community. Most of the contributors so far are strangers to one another-- many were strangers to me before they sent in their contribution-- but now they're all strangely, "virtually" connected. Connected to each other and, Sacrebleu!, connected to me. As you can see from their photos, they don't have a lot in common, at least not obviously. They're from all over the place. They value different things. They come from all kinds of backgrounds. But, for whatever reason, they decided to answer the call to name something they valued.

You can do it, too. All it takes is a piece of paper, a marker, and some sort of camera (or phone). No matter what you value, no matter what you believe or don't believe, it MUST be the case that at some point you have raised a skeptical eyebrow to the rhetorical use of "American Values" and thought to yourself: Wait just a minute. That's not right. So here's your chance to correct the record and secure for posterity your place in the community of American evaluators. Click here for instructions on how to submit your photo.

If you've already contributed, take a minute to pass on the word to others. There's a Facebook page for the project that you can link to and share on your profile. You can forward the original Vimeo or YouTube video to your friends and ask them to contribute. Or you could just ask people old school, face-to-face. It doesn't cost anything, it doesn't take much time or effort to help, and whatever help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Think you can't come up with a value or a photo? You're wrong.

You can.