On Medium & Message / by Kiersten Nash

  Bethesda Terrace 'Quite Zone', Central Park, NYC

Bethesda Terrace 'Quite Zone', Central Park, NYC

In order to increase the legitimacy, and hence effectiveness of my interpretation of the Central Park Conservancy's implied message, I adopted the graphic standards, or aesthetic code established by New York City—based advertising firm McGarry Bowen for Central Park's branding campaign. The field of 'sprightly yellowish green' was [re]dressed by the profane translation of the Conservancy's message in pristine Titling Gothic. [Re]dressing or subtly altering the presentation of the Quiet Zone sign allows the forbidden to unfold under the guise of the Conservancy's established norms.

   Shh...You're In a Fucking Quiet Zone Invitatio  n (front and back) , Kiersten Nash, October 2011.

Shh...You're In a Fucking Quiet Zone Invitation (front and back), Kiersten Nash, October 2011.

This tactic, as Mary Flanagan explains in her book Critical Play, can be traced back to the eighteenth-century when French artists began "infusing a pointedly domestic materiality into what was traditionally accepted as 'high' art" a.k.a. Rococo. [Re]presentation via [re]dressing creates liminal periods for enacting and [re]negotiating cultural conventions, or wayfinding°! However, it is not relegated to the tactical toolkits of artists, it can also manifest as an instrument of the State. Similar to co-opting the graphic standards that dictate the visual language of Central Park's signage system, 'The New New York Whole New Approach To Business' advertisement employs the cultural conventions of popular icons—Jay-Z, Keys, and DeNiro—to communicate Cuomo's economic agenda.

While the e-mail succeeded in provoking conversation and soliciting support, it failed to garner participation. Orchestrating a performance without any performers seemed like an impossible task, so I considered who and where are the performers? It wasn't long before I was slipped on my sandals, grabbed a stack of invitations, and headed to Central Park. I needed° to connect with the individuals directly affected by the ordinance. I needed to connect with musicians.

Wandering around the northern portion of the Park, I visited two Quiet Zones—Strawberry Fields and Bethesda Terrace where I spoke with approximately fifteen artists, nine of whom are musicians. The majority, though unfamiliar with Title 56§1.05.D or the corresponding 'Quiet' Zones, were incredibly interested in both topics and extended their support toward my initiative...but were unwilling to commit to the performance. Was it the day? The time? Did I need° to provide motivation? Was the cause not incentive enough? Then I met Matthais Kreck, a white bearded cellist propped on a park bench under the elms lining the Mall. After a fairly brief conversation, Matthais actually agreed to participate. Shew…the band 'plays' on! Ok, it's a band of one, definitely not the elaborate spectacle I had envisioned, but a critical intervention into the contested territory of cultural [re]presentation and [re]production nonetheless.