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September 26, 2005

{     Suggestion - by Illegal Art - Chronicle Books     }    

0811847497_largesuggestion.jpgIt's almost too simple an idea: ask a bunch of notoriously opinionated New Yorkers to give suggestions... on anything. Then collect those handwritten notes, sort by the location in which they were given, add in some quality black and white photos and suddenly you've got an amazing little bit of cultural anthropology on your hands. By leaving the suggestion topic open-ended, the collective who masterminded this street-level project (Illegal Art) were able to capture an incredible range of responses, from the inevitably crass to the downright sublime. Illegal Art representatives gathered the suggestions by carrying around a large white box with the word "SUGGESTION" painted on the side (pictured here on the book's cover), asking passersby "Hey, would you like to make a suggestion?" and pretty much just leaving it at that. Sometimes the participants drew their own conclusions; for instance many of those polled on the Staten Island Ferry assumed that the suggestions should relate in some way to the ferry service being provided, and mentioned things like "cheaper fares" and "cleaner restrooms" in addition to the ubiquitous "free beer" and "legalize marijuana". Others saw this as an opportunity to comment on current events, or to offer up little nuggets of conventional wisdom. Each locale provides its own revelatory moments, helping to illuminate the social, financial and cultural stratification of the city. A sense of the city emerges; not one driven by pie-charts and bar-graphs or census polls, but something much more sincere and seemingly holistic (despite the rather random approach.) It's alternately funny and sad, hopeful and pessimistic- and being able to see a person's actual handwriting, mis-spellings and doodles lets the reality of each participant's situation seep in. While it may be a brief read, the thoughts it stirs tend to linger. You find yourself coming back to a particular page, or just flipping the book open at random to see what pops up. It encourages participation and involvement, as you're given the opportunity to write down and send in your own suggestion; physically by tearing out the mail-in card attached to the back-cover of the book or electronically by visiting the Illegal Art website and submitting your response (see below.) My suggestion: Read.

     » Illegal Art
     » Chronicle Books


As an opinionated New Yorker I'd like to add a suggestion. Pick up "Fuck This Book" By Bodhi Oser also available on Chronicle Book's website. It's fucking hilarious.

Posted by: Aaron at September 26, 2005 9:49 PM
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