The Playground Project, or, Imagined Tours
“I’ve asked people for guided tours for twenty years. Most often, they’ve walked or driven me around their neighborhoods, and I’ve photographed their places. But this time of social distancing and constrained mobility has got me returning to a different part of that practice, a project in which I’ve asked people to imagine where in the world they would take me on a guided tour, if they could. This body of work, from my sidewalk photo studios set up in Jamaica, Queens and Harlem, Manhattan—invited by @nolongerempty and De La Vega—weaves a shared imagined geography, encompassing the most everyday parts of our lives, the most seminal places in our personal histories, and the most desired places of our futures. In this traumatic year, returning to these stories of complex personhood and how we can travel in our minds has brought me solace despite the violence that every day brings. I hope that these guided tours help you travel just a little bit, too, remembering what’s precious and what’s at stake.”
Dr. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani is an urbanist, curator, and artist practicing new modes of public arts, design, and urban research for community engagement, and is the author of Contested City: Art and Public History as Mediation at New York’s Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (University of Iowa Press, 2019). She is principal of the design and research studio Buscada and teaches urban studies and public art at the New School. She was a postdoctoral fellow in visual culture at the International Center of Photography and holds a Ph.D. in environmental psychology from the Graduate Center, CUNY. She regularly consults with arts and culture organizations on community and art engagements and strategic visioning. Her creative practice has been shown at institutions including MIT, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Center for Architecture, Artists Alliance/Cuchifritos Gallery & Project Space, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, and Tate Britain. Her work on cities, culture, and photography has appeared in journals, including Visual Studies, Urban Omnibus, Space and Culture, Society & Space, and Buildings & Landscapes.