new-york

Nina Katchadourian

One Chase Manhattan Plaza

Full disclosure: I first encountered Nina Katchadourian’s Public Art Fund project, Office Semaphore, 2006, via its press release, which began by asking, “Ever spot someone in a distant office window and wonder what is going on in his or her life? Part message decoding, part small-scale reality show, artist Nina Katchadourian’s Office Semaphore is a signaling system in which one person, who works on an upper story of an office building, communicates messages to people outside on street level.” Maybe this mode of introduction was appropriate—in that it intimated that our experience of such work is often mediated—or maybe not. In any case, nobody working at One Chase Manhattan Plaza on my visit appeared to even notice that the work was there.

In fact, the public square was mostly a ghost town, and my friend and I had the distinct feeling that we were more of a spectacle to the smokers huddled

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