A. Ellis

A kiosk. Anton’s Kiosks. What if we had Anton’s Kiosks in New York City? If all those little stands that sell overpriced candy bars and gum and newspapers were the containers of urban memory on the same level? Why aren’t they/don’t I consider them to be the containers of urban memory? Or is it that I am just too antisocial, too disinterested, or too busy to be bothered to speak to the person inside — who only accepts cash when all I have is a card? This is why Anton’s Kiosks, considering the purpose they serve in Athens as he explained to the class, are not just for me containers of urban memory, but a container of urban mingling, of recognition and reception. So NYC kiosks aren’t Anton’s Kiosks, but then is there anything I know that is an Anton Kiosk? How do I relate to this project?

It was pointed out to me last week, up here in Westchester, that a small empty structure in a parking lot was once a photomat. A photomat is a kiosk that has slots on the outside where you drop off your film/disposable camera and return the next day to pick up your developed photographs. The encounters, the developments (both literally and rhetorically), of the photomat are how I see these kiosks. These developments are imprints of stories, faces, lovers, emotion — documenting a conversation with a stranger, gaining information, and yet only having to be the receptacle of someone else’s memory … the building becomes a sort of gallery of a collective memory that, when returning to the archives, one may assess what it was like to live in a particular “when” and “where” without having to know exactly the “who.” But I’ve never seen one of these living photomat buildings, or at least, I don’t remember them.

Trying to find a connection between myself and that idea of the living kiosk (one that is in operation), then, is a bit difficult for me. Also, I’ve lived most of my life in non-urban areas. I may be a part of an urban setting now, but I don’t know what it means to participate in  urban memory, which, though we may like to think that memory and losing memory is common to people, I feel the nature of the memory is different based on what is demanded from you by the setting you’re in. It is a different training. So what is Anton playing off of in this concept of urban memory? If he is trying to reach across the settings of memory and go into the emotional ties to memory in order to connect to the larger audience, is it loss? Is he finding his urgency in this project through loss and the attempt to hold on to what is being forgotten (which, in the United States, is more than just the memory of a city, but of how to interact with other people)?

These were a few of the problems I found in relating to his work as an outsider. Though conceptually I understood the project, I could not understand it experientially, which makes me wonder if the kiosks are meant for outsiders at all. Anton transforms the kiosks into gathering places of the people and for the people, but the “people” — am I (using “I” as an umbrella statement), a rural/suburban kid who cannot relate to the idea of the kiosk, find my way into this particular urban memory? How?

I asked Anton what his intention with memory is for the kiosk project — if he meant to document, preserve, or perpetuate memory. His response was that he had no intention. The kiosks would become whatever the people wanted to make of them, and I think this is the root of my issue in wondering how those from “outside” can relate to what Anton is creating. Since I am not there to participate, of course I expect to have everything laid out for me — to be able to take a passive position and have that connection spoon fed to me. I’m from the Google generation of the US! I demand knowledge now! However, that is not how I see this one working. It is because I am not a part of the collective participating in the kiosk that I am an outsider, so I wouldn’t understand the intent of the collective (who may be made up of people from all sorts of places).

Yes, the concept of memory and forgetting is important and compelling, but what is more relatable within this idea of Anton’s Kiosks to me is the fact that the kiosks are whatever the people of the community turn them into. That I can relate to, the essence of crafting something — and community crafting appears in another one of Anton’s works Radio Narrowcast. This is not surprising to me, then, that I see the same thing in his kiosk work. Participating in community crafting is to contribute to a larger spirit that may transcend geographical and experiential boundaries. It should not be forgotten, though, my role in that community. If I am truly an outsider coming in to contribute to the crafting, it is not my place to say what that community wants but to allow myself to build the container of their memory as they would like it.

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