All images via Nobutaka Aozaki
Back in 2012, a Japanese conceptual artist by the name of Nobutaka Aozaki started walking around New York City wearing a blue ‘New York’ baseball cap and toting a plastic bag from Century 21. Though not a tourist himself, he posed as one and approached real tourists in the street, asking them for directions to a well-known city attraction, landmark, or building. When they would offer to show him the way on their phones, he’d refuse, saying he would remember better if they drew a little map for him on pieces of paper he provided. Most tourists, unlike busy New Yorkers with little words and even less patience, obliged.
From their drawings sprung ‘From Here to There,’ a ‘map’ of Manhattan made entirely of hand-drawn pointers to famous landmarks and buildings.
Aozaki’s work are most often odd in their own special way, and has included a collection of Starbucks drinks he has ordered, most of them with his name, Nobu, spelled wrong, and sculptures made of dry, discarded rice pressed into plastic molds. ‘From Here to There,’ which is still listed under his website as an ongoing project, has not added many updates since it made a few waves on The Verge and Colossal among other sites in 2012, but is still one of the most innovative forms of crowdsourcing we’ve seen yet.
Aozaki has stated that the the resultant map is not meant to be functional in any way. Still, you can still see some of the telltale grids, one-ways, even the skewed intersection that Broadway often makes with streets and avenues.
The lesson here: the next time a tourist asks you for directions, take the time. Your scribbles might end up on all the art blogs.
Next, see the real-time subway map that turns each train into strings of an instrument. Get in touch with the author @jinwoochong.