Grand Central Terminal: A “Fun Palace” of Musicians
Or: An Interstitial “Place Of Assembly”, Part II
Replacing a number of cars in each train with modified cars that can support ephemeral art events will help claim some of the unused spaces in the terminal. Modifications would maximize accessibility as well as visual and aural connections with the platforms. They could also facilitate interconnections between cars on different platforms.1 Each modified car, or coalition of neighboring modified
cars, will host an event that best fits the available space and time. This transforms the terminal into a two-dimensional matrix of regular and modified cars whose ever-changing value combinations are functions of the terminal’s schedule (time) as well as the number and placement (space) of modified cars within each train.
Employing cybernetics, the project invites the public to participate in mediating the space-time-event dynamics in the imagined terminal helping it maintain its relevance and spontaneity. Riders’ input will inform the placement and number of modified cars within each train on daily basis as well as the nature of event for each available space-time. It also invites the endlessly shifting group of users to engage in the event in real-time and a more meaningful and creative way, replacing a schedule gap with an active encounter. At the same time, the site retains its full efficiency as a transportation hub.
Initiated in 1985 Music Under New York receive more than 250 applications from musicians who seek to get exposure to “750,000 daily visitors of the terminal, some of whom are music and arts executives, and admits 25, putting the acceptance rate in the range of an Ivy League School.” (Simone, 2015) Many of the musicians continue to perform in less favorable spots or inside the trains and are, at times, forced to “exit the premises for violation of quality of life.” (Drell , 2016)
While the newly claimed spaces can hold events across a variety of art forms, music is the most apparent and fitting choice. Musicians have long found an accepting place in New York City’s subway stations and train cars. A quick browsing on the Internet shows the many capable but stage-less musicians who have been performing in NYC Subway stations for the better part of their adult lives. And shows many serendipitous moments where an individual finds the courage to tap on the “heightened sensibility” (Lévy, 2012) of the ‘displaced’ and less socially-conscious riders to shape an active collective encounter through music. However, these spontaneous yet fragmented events never assemble to shape a “place of encounters” (Lefebvre, 2003)
Music is particularly well-suited to this undertaking because it can adapt to the imagined terminal’s ever-changing space-time dynamics—indeed music is itself a form built of mediated sounds and silences, unfolded in time. Music can be performed by an individual or a band, it can slow down or speed up, and it can be rehearsed or improvised. Music is an immediate expression of individuality. Music is the most encouraging of arts for un-mediated collective participation, a goal this project seeks to achieve.
The new Terminal will animate the untapped potentials of Grand Central Terminal for the riders, local artists, and the Terminal owners.
For riders, the new terminal is no longer a place where wait time is measured only by a clock. It can be measured in ‘rhythms’ of one’s choice, a musical event or a series of them, played in harmony or in sequence. The harmony is of space and time, and it is not what the laws of physics define or one’s ideals of it. It is created by the previous riders, which in Grand Central Terminal is New York City and beyond. Space is not measured in feet. It is measured in eventful train cars.
For the artists, the terminal is a stage for directly connecting with the many music producers taking the train, or indirectly through the gaining recognition through social media. The artists would monetize their art by receiving cash in their guitar cases or in a dedicated bank account that receives money on pay-per-space-time-event-artist basis from people watching the event live at home or from the private performances musicians are commissioned by subway riders.
For the owners, the ‘fixed’ heritage building is not the only ‘rent monopoly’. The re-imagined terminal would offer an additional quality that cannot be replicated. The terminal space is no longer too static or too durable, it is mobile and ‘annihilates’ itself in time, only to accommodate a new event. The owners would receive a portion of each pay-per-space-time-event to keep things running and a portion of royalties from each artist contracted to perform in Grand Central Terminal.
This proposal questions the extents to which New York City needs to expand before it can offer space to every one of its capable musicians who seek a stage, and presents a proposition for reclaiming space and time to cultivate events. It is a place where boundaries blur and music begins. It offers the capable artists a chance to be seen and to the riders boundless opportunities to discover. It gives more reasons to gather, more events to celebrate, and more stories to tell. It is aware. It hears and participates and learns. It enables an infinite number of sequences and juxtapositions of events. It connects. It is a play-list of events that reshuffles every day. It is ‘fun’, like New York City.
Fall of 2016