At the NYPL, ‘On Broadway’ Portrays the World’s Greatest Street

THE DAILY PIC: Through data and photos, a team gets at a deeper cityscape.


THE DAILY PIC (#1459): Since “civilization” very literally means “city life”, there’s some sense that all the art made since the ancient Egyptians is about the urban scene, while since at least the birth of modern art, in the 19th century, many artists have explicitly set out to depict our new lives in new cities. Today’s Daily Pic is thus the latest effort in a very long line: It’s a screen-grab from a digital project titled On Broadway (start humming now) which is part of “Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography”, the wonderful show on view for another few weeks at the main branch of the New York Public Library.

The project’s makers, Daniel Goddemeyer, Moritz Stefaner, Dominikus Baur and Lev Manovich, say that it depicts “life in the 21st century city through a compilation of images and data collected along the 13 miles of Broadway that span Manhattan”. Those include photos of Broadway’s facades, culled from Google’s Street View (the top row in my Pic) and 660,000 shots taken by Instagramers as they strolled the great street (my bottom row). There are also samples from such immaterial data sets as taxi pickups and drop-offs on Broadway (22 million of those) and from census results giving the average household incomes along the path of the road.

If this piece launches an artistic movement, we’ll have to call it data-pointillism.

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