Artist: Gene Schmidt
Photographs by Alicia Hansen
Film by Johnny Gerhart and Philip Armand
Thursday, March 3, 2016–Sunday, April 3, 2016
Manhattan Measure was the beginning of a shift in my practice from working in the studio, making relatively small sculptures, to going outside and doing something closer to a performance. I had been using old yardsticks and tape measures as materials in my sculptures, and the idea to measure Manhattan was an extension of what I had already been doing.
I thought about the idea for eight years before I actually started the project. I knew I wanted to somehow measure Manhattan, but I also wanted to make something. Once I decided to use yardsticks, and to use each yardstick only once, it all started coming together. I would be left with a rather large stack of yardsticks, which would provide real, physical evidence of what had happened. Stacking the used yardsticks in the shape of a cross reflected the path I took across, and down the length of Manhattan. It also introduced additional symbolic connections and relationships.
The project was part performance, part sculpture, and part pilgrimage. This last element was, I think, the most valuable to me, and probably relevant only to me, in a way that was unavailable to anyone viewing the project. The act of numbering and preparing the yardsticks, laying them down, picking them up, stacking them in my studio, all while weaving my way through, past, and sometimes bumping up against, the thousands of other stories happening around me was a powerful experience.
While the sculpture provides a certain kind of evidence, a much better window into the project is provided through the work of three very talented individuals. Photographer Alicia Hansen not only documented what I was doing, but also captured glimpses into those thousands of other stories. Her images easily stand alone as a strong body of work outside the context of Manhattan Measure. Johnny Gerhart and Philip Armand captured the spirit of the project in their documentary film, and allowed people who may not want to measure Manhattan themselves to feel some of it’s dimensions.