Motion: blurs, smeared light, purpose and momentum, jostling for position around the pillars of glass and brick. The city provides conduits, spaces to inhabit, walls to the maze, but the purpose is lived out in movement. An ever blending torment of bulbs, crowds and cars, juxtaposed between architecture and water.
Motion is contrast: those photographs of streets with lights painting long lines down roads, like neon snakes jabbing at feet. The street is static, the lights alive, the contrast is what makes it surreal. The snapshots of light over time, deconstructed from simply beam to a path. You can make photos like this, waving sparklers to the camera, tracing out your name on bonfire night. Names in light, trails of photons against the dark.
The motion is both geographical and temporal: imagine our broadest perspective, spaced over decades, watching towers bob up under cranes and down under dynamite. The pulse and breath of the city: some parts evolving, others crusted under grime, slowly slipping into dereliction.
Motion of light and people, motion of cars, motion of the city itself.
But more. There’s more: the motion of ideas. Iterating, evolving, responding. Ideas catching fire, spreading through words, pamphlets, books, bars, phones and Twitter. Ideas twisting round, weaving through the crowds, carried on placards, T shirts, in our heads and through music. Ideas of unity, of rebellion, of change, of conformity, of power, of despair. And of love.
The motion of love: chance meetings, blurs of faces until eyes meet across a crowded room. Does that even happen anymore in a city of perpetual motion? Or is love digitised: no longer walking hand in hand through Central Park, but rather Skyped in haste from airport lounges?
The motion of two people, viewed from above, looking down like rats in a maze or those smoke particles battered by Brownian motion, edging closer, nearer, zigging and zagging down 42nd and Broadway, edging closer until they meet and merge in a kiss.
Motion of sound: sirens in crescendo as they careen past, doppler churning them to wails and screeches. Up and down, lights flash red and blue, urgency in sound, light and motion.
I stand in Grand Central concourse: above, the ceiling dimming in the evening light, which streams through the windows onto the marble floor. A space, defined by architecture, hosting a crowd. Constant motion: i’m like a pillar as conversations dash by. In the turgid eddies of the stream people queue to buy tickets from wooden framed booths. There’s a contrast between the stately majesty of the building and the most mundane of commutes. Maybe it temporarily elevates us out of the everyday to be part of that evolving crowd, before the train whisks us back to obscurity and mere real life. No longer part of the timeless picture, the motion of the station.
Immobile on the street sits a young girl: she’s been on my mind all day. I walked past at dawn, as she slept with a black puppy held close. Swaddled in seemingly endless coats and rags. Later i walk back, thirty dollars down on breakfast. Still she’s sat there, not begging, just without motion as the crowds swell. Nobody takes a look. In Starbucks opposite the bar in the window glints back with a row of Apples, starting unblinking as she sits.
I drink coffee: i walk back.
Motionless, she’s there. Without purpose. The crowd now thick: i reach for the change in my pocket, hating myself as i do so. Surely momentum comes from within, not without? Am i perpetuating the inequality, or is an act of kindness worth something, even in all this motion.
She’s not even eighteen. I don’t think she’s sixteen. Her hand is impossibly small through cold and her voice rattles. She is so quiet the motion passes her by. Judgements flash through my mind for the rest of the day and i don’t feel good. We perpetuate inequality if we don’t engage, but engagement seems futile. Sometimes the city seems to move at such speed that it’s a leaf in the breeze.
Against the bustle and rush of the city which seeks to steal my attention at every gaze, it’s this moment of stillness which captures me.
Motion: perpetual. The actors change, the cars move, the city evolves, but the energy remains, trapped between the buildings, circulating, chewing people up, spitting them out. Down amongst the lights, i don’t feel good, but i continue to move on with the crowd.