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Wooden idols: The Bowery, New York City

Wooden idols: The Bowery, New York City, © image copyright D.Johnstone

Wooden Idols just off The Bowery in New York City… They were lined up obediently waiting for something, but who knows what. The street yields unending insights…

Mattress LES: D. Johnstone, New York City 2010

Mattress LES: D. Johnstone, New York City 2010, image copyright © D.Johnstone

“We have so much to unlearn here”

These words were scrawled in black magic marker on a discarded mattress in the street on the Lower East Side of New York City. It had been a dismal rainy day and the grey mise-en-scène echoed an industrial mayhem straight out of Dickens – full of despair and the promise of depravity lurking around every corner.

I’m always amazed by the contradictions of New York City – the über urban landscape sheathed in decay and metamorphosis. Who would think that while walking down a street in the Lower East Side that one would see poetic words scrawled on an old, discarded mattress; “We have so much to unlearn here”.

I envision a broken, forlorn, soul, evicted from his tiny East Village apartment, dumping possessions into the street that cold not be quickly or easily moved on his back. In a state of despair, he records the finality of his thoughts on an old mattress that now, serves as a cultural marker and I – questing for meaning – take a picture of it with my phone. I now hold a record of this marker in the palm of my hand. Has the status of the object has been changed? Is it the mad reflection of a soul gone to Hell? Is it the collective unconscious played out in a physical state? Is it poetic? Is it art? Or is it simply the whim of a passerby who happened to have a black magic marker in her pocket?

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