Hidden City: WNYC Wanders Through Brighton Beach

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 - 05:08 PM

See the City through the eyes (and ears) of an artist. Above, an image from the Elastic City sound walk in Brighton Beach. (Todd Shalom/Elastic City)

In a city that is all sensory overload — teeming sidewalks, roaring trains, tricked out cruisers blaring reggaeton — it becomes practically a matter of survival to be selective about what we choose to see and hear. We put on iPods. We bury our nose in a book. We simply block it out.

But the artists of Elastic City — a Brooklyn-based outfit that leads experiential walks in search of art and imagery — wants you to do just the opposite. They want to get you to listen (closely) to the drone of air-conditioning units and the calls of street vendors. And to help debut their newest walk of Brighton Beach, they have extended a special invite to eight WNYC listeners.

Elastic City is led by New York-born poet and performance artist Todd Shalom, who has organized a group of artists to lead sensory examinations of the city. Since May, they have organized group outings exploring vintage typography in Williamsburg, the monuments of downtown Manhattan and even the soundscape of gay New York (complete with a visit to an adult video store). One artist, in fact, is in the process of developing a walk inspired by the concept of homesickness. These outings, says Shalom, are about recreating the wonder you feel anytime you are in a new place — where scents, sights, sounds and language are totally fresh.

This month, Shalom and Elastic City are debuting a new walk devoted to the soundscape of Brighton Beach that is inspired by the work of futurist poet Aleksei Kruchenykh, a Ukrainian figure who was dedicated to exploring the sounds words made, rather than their meaning. We're jonesing to go, and thought it would be great to have eight WNYC listeners join us for this special listening experience.

The tour will take place on Saturday, July 24th at 6pm in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Since this is a special outing, the folks at Elastic City have even waved the fee (usually $25). If you'd like to come along, leave a comment telling us why you'd like to participate. I'll be there, along with one of the station's ultra-fabulous videographers, who will be on hand to record the spectacle. In the meantime, you can find all manner of details related to the walk right here.

See you on the 24th!

Todd Shalom/Elastic City
Elastic City's artist-led walks are about drawing attention to the city's overlooked experiences. Above, a brightly-painted Russian cafe in Brighton Beach.
Todd Shalom/Elastic City
Sound walks get participants attuned to the noise in the environment, be it the rush of water, the cry of children, or a cotton candy vendor plying his wares.
Todd Shalom/Elastic City
A lady surveys the scene in Brighton. The walks organized by Elastic City are about keeping our senses attuned to the nuances of the urban environment.


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Comments [18]

Dita from New York City

The idea of exploring the city through sound is so unique-- usually we're all trying to shut it out. I'd like to learn to listen to and explore it and get a totally different perspective on the city

Jul. 22 2010 04:34 PM

Thanks everyone for leaving your wonderful comments! We'll be getting back to folks shortly!

Jul. 19 2010 11:12 PM
Ariana from Manhattan

I'm a born-and-raised New Yorker who appreciates seeing the city through others' eyes (and ears). I also curate a listing of NYC cultural events in the summer and pride myself in attending a lot of stuff to share with my membership--I'd love to see what this is all about!

Jul. 19 2010 09:01 AM
anika sabin from brooklyn

This sounds so absolutely wonderful. I recently moved to the city and would love to participate in a guided tour, focus on the details, and feel less overwhelmed. I also persuaded my girlfriend to move as well, and want her to feel like she made the right decision!

Jul. 18 2010 09:00 PM
Patrick from Harlem

Sounds sweet. I'd love to come. I'm teaching Enlish as a Second Laugage in Brighton Beach this summer. I sometimes assign a public listening exercise for my students where they write down somethings they hear on their commute to or from school. We then use the words or sounds they were impressed with to build their vocabulary and write a poem. I'd love to use the insight I would gain on this art walk to improve my lesson.

Jul. 18 2010 07:34 PM
Craig from Union Square

I have been fascinated by sound since deciding many years ago that my gifts were aural rather than visual. I've been lucky to be able to travel the world and explore sound as I go. I've sung Gregorian Chant in Italian baptisteries and been awed by the unique soundscape of the Zocolo in Oaxaca, Mexico. My memories of Brighton Beach date back to the late 60s, when I had some clients there, but I haven't returned since, despite the best intentions. I would love to enjoy this walk with artist Todd Shalom.

Jul. 16 2010 03:17 PM
Stephanie Pau from New York City

I recently uprooted myself from my lifelong home on the West Coast to move to this amazing new city. It will take a lifetime to discover New York City, but I find wandering is best done in the company of others. I am also very interested in field recordings (having done some myself) and love the idea that there is a hidden symphony of sound in the world around us. I would love to join this walk!!

Jul. 16 2010 01:12 PM
James Williams from New York City

I moved to New York City last week to begin my graduate studies in fine arts this fall. I've never been to Brighton Beach, and would love to experience the walk with "fresh ears."

Jul. 16 2010 09:35 AM
Abigail Baim-Lance from Brooklyn

Attunement to the landscape is my life's vocation. I would love to experience the hum of daily life with other ears as a collective form of being together in our noisy world.

Jul. 16 2010 09:08 AM
Mary Hoffman from Brooklyn

In October a collection of my stories, called "At Home Anywhere" will be published by New Rivers Press, and distributed through Consortium. All the stories are set in Brooklyn, and I'm always on the lookout for new perspectives on the borough. In graduate classes at Teachers College I learned about the frequencies of speech sounds, so the source of your inspiration for this walk is also of interest. I'd love to come along on your Brighten Beach "crawl!"

Jul. 16 2010 08:53 AM
Hal Foster from Broklyn

I am a life-long New Yorker, retired architect and and love touring the City. I would be most pleased to join your walk to see and hear about Brighton Beach through your eyes on July 24.

Jul. 16 2010 08:38 AM
caroline bertrand

That was supposed to be Wnyc experience!!

Jul. 16 2010 08:37 AM
caroline Bertrand from Union Square NYC

I would love to join the walk because I think a very direct experience using all senses would be better than just reading about the place in the papers.
Having Todd Shalom as a guide would truly make this a unique NYC experience.

Jul. 16 2010 08:30 AM
Kat from Greenpoint

I just heard this piece on the air, and would love to be a part of the walk. It sounds just perfect. (Pun intended.)

Jul. 16 2010 08:21 AM
m a

I would love to be a part of this. I've been working on oral history-based sound projects in Flushing, Queens, an area with a unique soundscape of its own, and am very curious about Todd's experiences in Brighton Beach.

Jul. 16 2010 08:15 AM
Dafna Alsheh from Brooklyn NY

I think the listening tour is a great idea! I would love to explore Brighton Beach (a neighborhood I am not familiar with) and begin to understand its texture and nuances by listening. Please consider me.

Jul. 16 2010 08:14 AM
sylvia dombey pearl from new jersey

this is SO exciting. What better than to hear the sounds through your eyes. I'm 74, in great shape and ready to go!



Jul. 16 2010 08:08 AM
nicole from brooklyn

I want to go because over the past 8 years I have attempted to tour Brighton Beach on my own, with wonder. I'd like to explore this wonderful place in a way I could never (initially) achieve on my own!

Jul. 16 2010 08:04 AM

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About Gallerina

Carolina A. Miranda is a regular contributor to WNYC and blogs about the arts for the station as "Gallerina." In addition to that, she contributes articles on culture, travel and the arts to a variety of national and regional media, including Time, ArtNews, Travel + Leisure and Budget Travel and Florida Travel + Life. She has reported on the burgeoning industry of skatepark design, architectural pedagogy in Southern California, the presence of street art in museums and Lima's burgeoning food scene, among many other subjects. In 2008, she was named one of eight fellows in the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program for her arts and architecture blog, which has received mentions in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In January of 2010, the Times named her one of nine people to follow on Twitter. Got a tip? E-mail her at c [@] c-monster [dot] net


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