14th street in Manhattan is one of New York City’s major thoroughfares. After I moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 14th street became crucial in shaping my daily life. I take the L train, the subway that runs under 14th street, almost every day and a lot of my daily activity seems to be happening along this long horizontal space. I go to the grocery store, frequent the ramen restaurant at 1st Ave, make plans to meet people at Union Square and run into friends that I haven’t seen for 10 years. I have come to think that 14th street, perhaps all streets, give out a lot of chances in life to people, including myself. Perhaps, we are meeting our moments in life on the small corners of the street day by day, without realizing. People take trains, transfer between trains, take cross town buses, or decide to walk when cannot stand the wait time for the MTA, to go uptown, downtown, to the east, to the west. They shop, meet people, take photos, dance, fall in love and what not.
At the same time, I was fascinated by how I became used to the authoritative voice of the MTA announcements. Sometimes, the announcements give us an order like “If you found XXX, please XXX”, sometimes it’s information about the next stop. “This is Manhattan bound L train. Next stop is 1st Avenue” becomes, a few minutes later, “This is 8th avenue bound L train. Next stop is 6 avenue. You can transfer to F or V train” Sometimes, it also frustrates us, simply by saying “Train is delayed because of the train traffic ahead of us”. I started to daydream why the announcement weren’t telling us more interesting information, hidden stories about the street we are passing by or what we could do at certain locations aside from getting to our destination, where we are truly bound. The project idea began there.
In this project, I will give out recorded announcements and orders as the L train passes along 14th street from 1st Avenue to 8th Avenue in Manhattan. I am going to use the format of the familiar MTA announcements and change it into a method of storytelling. Every day, the announcements will be different, but will be pertinent to the various locations.
The announcement will reflect a collection/excerpts of stories that people share regarding their memory/reflection/desire attached to the 14th street (I am currently collecting materials). What is your story about 14th street? What is your tip about 100 w 14th street? Who did you meet on 14th street and 2nd avenue, and what did you do there that was special for you?