Monday, August 16, 2010

Look Both Ways

From an Upper East Side perch high above Park Avenue, I witnessed this accident Friday night —involving a taxi, a privately owned silver vehicle and a very innocent and unassuming church.  Thankfully, all of those involved in the accident below were wearing seatbelts and emerged with minor injuries, if any.
It seemed timely to post this, with the New York Times' announcement this morning of the release of the NYC transportation planners' "2010 Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan."
“This is the Rosetta Stone for safety on the streets of New York,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner.  The findings could also become a tool for the Bloomberg administration to extend its re-engineering of the city’s street grid, which it says saves lives.
Since I've witnessed at least three or more horrific accidents at this same intersection for the exact same reasons, hopefully some sort of the re-engineering mentioned above will take place here at 85th and Park. 
Featured on PDN Photo of the Day a few weeks ago was Nicolai Howalt, a photographer who completed [in his words] his own "thought provoking photographic study of cars that have been involved in severe and potentially fatal accidents, a series which moves between documentation and abstraction." 
CAR CRASH STUDIES by Nicolai Howalt. Interior # 2. 2009. 40x50 cm. Ed 1/5+2AP. Mounted on aluminum. 

In wider shots, viewers are confronted with the gruesome corpses of these vehicles, often with spiderweb cracks on the windshield, bent and twisted frames and sometimes with the blood stains of drivers pulled from the wreckage.

CAR CRASH STUDIES by Nicolai Howalt. Untitled # 5. 2009. 100x130 cm. Ed 1/5+2AP. Mounted on aluminum.
CAR CRASH STUDIES by Nicolai Howalt. Airbags # 4. 2009. 48x60 cm. Ed 1/5+2AP. Mounted on aluminum.

In tighter and more abstract shots, warped accordion-like folded metal becomes beautiful.  Deflated SRS airbags rest on steering wheels like wilted flowers.  As Bruce Silverstein Gallery writes of the series, "Howalt's works rather attempt to portray an abstract, mental state, namely the duality we feel in relation to accidents or catastrophes when experienced from a distance - as spectators.

Mara Hoberman writes in ArtForum
In their great diversity of presentation and perspective, Howalt’s images are at once morbidly exhilarating and astonishingly beautiful. The multiple vantage points included in “Car Crash Studies” inform one another and underscore the myriad ways in which violent acts, particularly car crashes, are undeniably fascinating. As the saying goes, you just can’t look away.


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