Commutes: NJ Transit Series

This sequence of photographs was selected from documentation of Commutes, a series of situational performance-interventions occurring within the New Jersey Transit bus system. The project arose from the observations I made while riding the 163 to and from work in Paramus NJ. It is based on the assemblage of personal landmarks, itineraries, and insights I have accumulated while traveling this route between September 1999 and August 2000. With the photographs, I have included an image of the official route map as it appears on the 163 bus schedule I was using.

On each familiar trip I notice a place, edifice, or scene that seems suitable to document. While the bus has paused to let riders on or off, I begin to trace the image onto the glass with a dry-erase marker. The tracing registers with the scene outside for only a moment. I stop drawing when the bus begins to move again. The varying limits of this brief window of time result in gestural or diagrammatic fragments, as well as more complete depictions. The static image on the window is immediately and continually re-contextualized by the cinematic passing of scenery outside. When I reach my destination, I get off the bus leaving the drawing behind.

The element of chance is important to this work. Once I exit the bus, subsequent passengers may recognize the migrant traces. They may be able to connect the image to the stop at which it was created. There is a more remote chance that my trace, having survived the circuitous bus route, will visually re-register with the object that inspired it. If this happens, will anyone be there to notice?

The spectacle of the act (drawing) and the traces left behind are modes of sharing my experience of the time/space of collective transit with others (observers and future occupants of my seat). A space for creative improvisation or play is opened within the complex of processes constituting the expected behavior of people moving to and from work. The abstraction imposed on this suburban landscape by the official route map and time table is temporarily off-set by the complexities of lived experience. Click here to read the New York Times article about this work.

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