Thursday, September 12, 2013

The High Line: An Abstract Nature


The High Line is New York City’s phenomenally popular urban park built atop the remains of a former elevated rail structure. Designed collaboratively by James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf, the park runs through a 1.45 mile section of the Chelsea neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side. Twenty-five years elapsed between the time trains stopped running on the High Line and it was first considered for redevelopment as a uniquely innovative park. During that time a feral urban wilderness seeded itself and grew on the structure. That wild character inspired the creation of the park.

Introducing The High Line: An Abstract Nature, my most recent project—still in progress. An extension of my previous series, called Synecdoche: the fragment that represents the whole, the new project applies the concepts and issues of that series to the specificity of this place.

Synecdoche is a literary term that means the part that represents the whole. The images in the series metaphorically express the fragmentation we experience in our complex, often paradoxical, relationships between nature and the built environment; they challenge definitions of nature in a time when nature often is reduced, manufactured and abstracted. The images come from diverse locations to emphasize the increasing universality of this phenomenon. (To see selections from my Synecdoche portfolio, click here.)

The High Line: An Abstract Nature is a photographic study of the park, which, although inspired by feral nature, is as carefully designed and maintained as a botanical garden. The rigorous design of its natural features and its popularity as a tourist destination combine with its urban setting to create an unprecedented urban park experience. It is a park where nature has been introduced into a totally manufactured environment that is dominated by the presence of people.

Let’s be clear about two things: First, like so many others, I love the High Line. Second, although it was inspired by the feral kind of nature that grew on the abandoned line, now that it’s a park it can no longer be considered anything like an urban wilderness. I’ve often stretched that concept, which is meant to be a thought-provoking paradox. But trying to wrap it around the High Line would eviscerate all meaning from the "wilderness" end of its conceptual spectrum. No matter. The High Line is another sort of experience of nature and, as I see it, a more abstract one. Hence the title of this series.

To see more images from The High Line: An Abstract Nature, click here.

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