For my project, I have created a map of NYC that is based off of generated text. To start, I drew a map of the five boroughs of New York (admittedly, it is not the best map because I have no artistic training.) My intention was to make points on the map based on randomization of text from both TextMechanic and GenGen. I also wanted to create a procedure that could be applied to any map of any place that would yield similar results. Kind of like a color by numbers kind of activity, but hopefully cooler.
Once I had all of these sorted by borough, one by one I put the plain text lists into TextMechanic’s random line picker and came up with 15 places for Staten Island and 20 each for Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. (Just because they’re bigger and have more communities. Poor Staten Island, always overlooked.)
Here’s Staten Island’s neighborhoods in Text Mechanic.
So, once I had made my lists of what places I was going to include, I had to decide which points I was going to make, so using GenGen, I made a list of color coded options in which each color represents a different characteristic. The generator that tells me what color to ascribe to which section.
Black: Means the neighborhood did not meet the characteristic specified for it.
Grey: The neighborhood has at least one high rise or skyscraper, or is otherwise identifiable as a business district.
Brown: The neighborhood has houses, or is otherwise identifiable as a residential community
Dark Blue: The neighborhood suffered one natural disaster (hurricane, flood, etc) or accident (fire, explosion, etc)
Light Blue: The neighborhood has at least one park, garden, pier/beach, or green space.
Dark Green: The neighborhood has at least one Starbucks coffee chain.
Light Green: The neighborhood has at least one locally owned coffee shop (believe it or not, Starbucks aren’t everywhere in NYC!)
Yellow: The neighborhood once housed an artistic or literary community, or is a neighborhood that has an artistic center.
Gold: The neighborhood has a university or a house of worship, like a mosque, a church, or a synagogue.
Bright Red (Orange): The neighborhood has at least on tourist attraction (like a museum or something Times Square-esque.)
Dark Red: The neighborhood is historical or is the location of a historical event (like a battle during the Revolutionary War.)
So, what inspired me to do this? Looking back to our friend Kenneth Goldsmith’s book in the chapter “Infallible Process,” I was inspired by the idea of instruction based art, with the example of Yoko Ono standing out especially. I really wanted to make a physical object from a text based procedure. What I like about this piece is that it’s unique, but it’s ubiquitous. This could easily be adapted by anyone with any map using the same rules and process and yet it would yield a completely different result. I realize that in doing this, the neighborhoods would meet more than one criteria, and just because it’s colored black doesn’t mean that it doesn’t meet any of them. I like to think that it’s more experimental, to see how it will come out versus how it should come out. Each neighborhood has a sense of pride attached to it that having a singular identifier tied to it like on this map wouldn’t do it justice. Looking at this map won’t tell you everything, but it will tell you something–Chelsea, for example, is marked by a yellow dot because the infamous Hotel Chelsea was a breeding ground for major artistic, musical, and literary talent in its heyday.
In making the legend for this map and deciding what each color would represent, I chose qualities that are obvious juxtapositions, like houses vs skyscrapers and Starbucks vs local coffee. Having the colors represent juxtapositions to me brings attention to the differences and unique identifiers present in each city. I think it points out that each place has a story and a specific sense of pride and self attached to it. I am very proud of this piece and am happy to stand by it.