Going to New York for the student trip to attend the Performa Festival was giving and inspirational, not only were the performances and the events we participated in “useful” (if I have to use that word) but all the experiences that lay in between, you know all the things that happened in between us going to the events, all the stuff that might comes off as fluffy to talk about that we don’t report back because that kind of stuff was not the intention of going to New York in the first place – the intention was the performa festival – this fluffy stuff is to me what constitutes a student trip and the learning experience of a student trip. It’s like the glue that sticks it all together and that makes the main experiences for what they were beside their content itself ‘cause what we experience before and after adds to the content and forms our overall experience. You would say it’s tough luck that you can never experience a performance for what it is in itself.. That’s a longer discussion. But to me, my impression of New York City and the humans of New York is formed by the fluffy stuff. It’s formed by the events that happened in between the events. And in retrospective, I realize that not only were we attending this and that performance but we were also performing ourselves. Or that is what my friend, Sophie and I did. We were photobombing. You could say we did photobombing pop-up performances. We did it on our way to the different venues, we saw our targets – BOMB – photobomb. We did it on our breaks to fill out our time and maybe existence?, we saw our targets – BOMB – photobomb. It happened emergent, in the now, spontaneous and in relation to the people and the sites.
It all started in Washington Square Park. We saw a couple nicely dressed and what looked like to be a professional photographer taking pictures of the couple shifting between standing in front of the big tourist attractions, the central fountain and the Washington Square Arch. It was a perfect looking couple and a perfect setting – we had to photobomb it. So, we did some moves and had a good laugh about the thought of them scrolling through their pictures and discovering us in the background doing funny moves. And that’s how we began our journey with photobombing. Usually, the targets itself did not notice us (we took our precautions and stood a quite far distance to them), but the people around did and commented upon it. One of them was a man in a long beige trench coat with a black suitcase, probably coming from work on his way down to the subway at Madison Square Garden. He passed us while we stood behind a reporter interviewing a little girl and photobombed (or is it called videobomb in this case) the news. We did our move and he said it was the best photobomb he has seen and smiled. It was filmed in the evening so hopefully we made our appearance in prime time. We noticed that there were something to this. That people reacted on our action, they commented on it, gave feedback, was intrigued and wanted to interact. Not only was it fun for us photobombing but people around it experiencing it also had fun. It was as if we were breaking down a barrier in between us people in the public space.
Photobombing is a fun phenomena. It goes against the idea of respecting people’s private space in public space. Everybody knows that if you have a camera and are about to take a picture you don’t get in the way. It’s just one of those unwritten rules. To me, it was interesting to see how movements and patterns change according to when some tourist pull out her camera. People walk around the camera and a circle is unconsciously created. And it made me wonder how a camera can dictate whose space belongs to whom and how a camera has the power to create invisible borders.
You could say that we were disturbing the picture-perfect situations, the kodak moments and especially the formality in taking pictures in public spaces. Photobombing disturbs the space in between the motives and the camera, it reveals that there exist people/subjects around you, that things and people are dynamic and in movement, it also reveals that subjects and objects cannot be fully controlled or fixed into a perfect picture. Furthermore, what we have discovered is that being formal and polite is not always necessarily a positive thing, it can also create distance. When breaking down this formality, you open up for interaction. When acting informal, you invite to informal meetings. We have had several of these meetings and I would say that I find the New York people incredibly expressive, expressive in body language, using hand gestures, and embodying a high pulse attitude and energy. There is somehow a special kind of rhythm in their way of interacting which I find very alluring. It’s very forward and it’s almost that what you get is what you see. What strikes me the most is their placement in public space, they are not afraid of taking up the space and being visible. They give feedback, comment and react to situations and each other. From all of my experiences in NY, this kind of taking up public space and maybe reclaiming the streets is something I will take back with me to DK.
To round it all up, what started out as joking and goofing around turned out to be something that had meaning and that could open up for meetings in public spaces. Sophie and I have talked about doing this photobombing to a performance project. Photobombing – a gate to interaction with the people of New York / [insert city].
Unfortunately, we don’t have the pictures of us photobombing others. But we have taken pictures of us doing thee move. Maybe someday you will find us doing this move in one of your photos.
Nota bene: Photobomb with care. We did a move that looked very silly so the joke was more on us than on the targets/main motives of the pictures. And remember to laugh at yourself. ‘Cause if you don’t laugh at yourself – how the hell you gonna laugh at somebody else?