title: how many is too many?
location: 14th street, new york city, new york
duration: four days – 10h30 – 14h30
presented by: art in odd places (aiop) – founder and director – ed woodham
curated by : radhika subramaniam
supported by: conseil des arts et des lettres du québec
some responses from the street remembered after-the-fact presented in blue italics below
october 14 – 18, 2013
a man walks quickly by, leans into my path. yells.
“depends what the too many is referring to.”
a young woman, after hearing the guy yell, “a trillion.” she and i stopped at the crosswalk waiting for the light to turn. i reply, “yeah, it does.” she asks, “so what are you referring to?” i answer, “homeless.”
“my ankles used to hurt, but now they are fine. bless you. he is politically the father of this city, the mayor, bloomberg is a billiionaire. how many millions go into a billion? with just one of his millions he could demolish homelessness. as the father of this city. he is the father.”
a man walking alone. i point to his feet and ask how he is doing. his ankles are swollen, scabbed. he asks what this is about. i tell him, i tell him about the fifty thousand homeless in new york city. he knows a lot about the politics of his city, about bloomberg, about homeless.
a truck driver shouts out his window as he drives by.
he high-fives me as we pass in the cross-walk. later, on the other side of the street, he runs by yelling, fiiiiiiiiive.
a woman a man and a dog sitting on a blanket on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign of their own saying : down and out, anything helps.
“what is that? what does it say? but what does it mean? ah. yeah… yeah…. right. have a good day too. i hope you find a home.”
he is standing alone eating a sandwich. he approaches me, sandwich in hand and asks, “what is this?” i think he cannot read, so nodding towards the sign i say, “how many is too many?” he does not understand. i say it again. he still does not understand. i say, “it’s like, how many homeless is too many homeless.” he still does not understand. i say, “it’s like one homeless is one homeless too many.” “ah,” he replies. when we part ways he says, “i hope you find a home.” his words plunge deep inside me. i say, “thank you,” adding “me too.” in that instant i am rendered homeless and i wonder if i will ever find “home.” i repeat his words inside me, carry his words inside me.
“what is this? what does it mean? too many what?”
the most common response. my answer would depend on who asked and where i was – sometimes i would say, “whatever you want it to.” other times i would say, “homeless.”
“that’s a good question. that’s a good philosophical question. i think the answer is one. one.”
the « punks » on the eastside with their dogs and makeshift lodgings. cardboard tents just big enough for one sleeping body. he is sitting on a blanket on the sidewalk under a scaffold grooming his dog. i reply, “one is my answer.”
“i read about you. i read about you in hyperallergic. what you’re doing is cool. like adrian piper. subtle.”
young woman on a bike rides up to me. at first i think she must have mistaken me for someone else. then i feel flattered and shy. i mention adrian piper is one of my favorite artists. ever.
“how many is too many? how many is too many? three. three is too many. there, now you got the answer. three. three. you got the answer – now you can put the sign down.”
an older woman, browned by the sun wearing a large winter coat. she stands on the sidewalk next to a truck. one big guy on the truck passes cardboard boxes to one skinny guy on the street. the woman reads the sign out loud, “how many is too many?” she translates the words to a language i do not know while looking up at the big guy on the truck. he stops passing the boxes to the skinny guy on the sidewalk and raises his arm, sticks out his hand and shows me three fingers. “three.” “three.” “three is too many.” “there, now you got your answer, it’s three. there, that’s the answer. now you can put your sign down.”
14th street new york, new york
a daily walking up and down the length of 14th street from 10h30 to 14h30 monday to friday (with thursday off.)