The series, put on by the Guggenheim, is like any other day walking around Jackson Heights or sitting with friends in their apartment, except, well... you don’t know these people and at each location there’s an author or actor waiting with a story in mind to tell you.
Stillspotting NYC is a two-year-long project that takes museum-goers with a map in hand to city streets. They will hear stories from writers including poets, professors, a chaplain and a pair of rappers.
For this edition of Stillspotting NYC: Queens, called Transhistoria, the architects at New York-based Solid Objectives–Idenburg Liu — that found locations and writers for the event — bring visitors to Jackson Heights.
Ticket holders take two-hour self-guided tours starting from the Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Ave. transit hub on 75th Street and Broadway.
Guests choose four of six locations to visit on their tour.
A family program will be offered May 5 from 12 to 3p.m. with a story written for the little ones and adults alike. Visit the project’s website for more information.
Stillspotting participant Roger Sedarat said writers were prompted by the questions: “How do New Yorkers escape the intensity of the city? We are interested in a story about transition and making a place in one’s home through language,” and “What connection does this story have to the ideas of stillness and quiet?”
A “stillspot” was different for each author, but in his or her own way it’s a place in which each felt calm with a sense of belonging.
And it’s not always easy to find moments of still in a neighborhood with a lack of green space, pointed out poet and participant Maria Terrone. Jackson Heights is also one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in city, according to the Guggenheim.
“A place where ‘peace and quiet’ is elusive and ever more precious when it’s found,” as excerpted from Terrone’s piece.
Three of the Stillspotting authors — Sedarat, Terrone and Premilla Nadasen — work at Queens College and in some way or another speak about food as an example of culture or a unifier in this diverse neighborhood.
Sedarat, an Iranian American from Texas, became familiar with Jackson Heights 15 years ago.
Sedarat’s piece, which is read at one of the many “stillspots,” is a modern take on the movie “My Dinner with Andre” and a reflective piece on teaching and writing this piece for the Guggenheim. In his story, Sedarat has lunch with friends and stumbles upon student art, which represents his stillspot.
One excerpt from Sedarat’s story “My Dinner with Joe & Steffi” reads: “The smell of the curry and the traffic outside roots me to a certain plot that defines my life today.”
Terrone, an Italian-American, writes about the serenity of cooking and how “food equals home.”
“And so, in the almost relentless stimulation of Jackson Heights, my kitchen becomes my ‘stillspot.’ Whether I’m dicing carrots for a sauce Bolognese or cucumbers for a cooling, post-curry dish of raita, I always find myself drifting into a Buddha-like serenity, a welcome counterpoint to the hubbub beyond my haven,” reads an excerpt from Terrone’s piece, “At Home in the New World.”
Nadasen, an associate professor of history at Queens College and an Indian originally from South Africa, writes about the history of samoosa, a dumpling like snack, and what it means for her.
“In my household samoosa production was as culturally significant as samoosa consumption. It was a family affair, with one person rolling and cutting the dough, another filling, and a third person responsible for frying,” as excerpted from Nadasen’s piece, “You say Samosa, I say Samoosa.”
When: April 28–29, and May 5–6, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Walking tours start at Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Ave. transit hub
Tickets: $10, credit card only