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232 - Willkommen in Neu-York (?)

January 10, 2008, 9:36 AM


One could call it cautionary cartography, this map of a thoroughly germanified New York – something that might have happened in an alternate universe, where the Nazis not only won the World War in Europe, but managed to cross the ocean and subdue the United States.

Neu-York is a project by artist Melissa Gould, who writes on the project’s website about its disorienting side-effects, beyond the obvious “horrifying counterfactual proposition”: “(this) is an exploration of psychological transport, place, displacement and memory. This re-imagining of the city plays with comparison and misrecognition, exploring the coexistence of past and present, fiction and reality.”

Gould’s Neu-York is based on several pre-1940 maps of Manhattan, thus excluding post-war developments, and digitally manipulating the material – erasing the synagogues, for one. Street and location names were replaced by names taken from contemporary Berlin maps. Thus, this Manhattan isn’t so much a city conquered and renamed, but one transported across an ocean and transposed on another one – Berlin-am-Hudson, so to speak.

The artist chose methods and colours to give her work a ‘vintage’ feel, resulting in an uncanny, pseudo-historical piece of psycho-geography.

• The project’s website shows 21 detailed maps of Neu-York
• Also, extensive bi-lingual listings of the renamed streets, sights and locations. Some of the renaming is problematic: why does Central Park become Tiergarten when it obviously isn’t a zoo? Others are plain unsettling: the Croton Reservoir in Central Park becomes Wannsee, a Berlin locale forever infamously linked with the conference held there to set up the Endlösung, the extermination of European Jewry.
• The avenues are all named after German kings and emperors.
• The streets are named, in clusters, for birds, wildflowers, plants, grains and herbs, flowers, trees, animals, German composers, operas, ancient German first names, foreign cities, German rivers and German cities. More info on the renaming on the website.

Thanks to Melissa Gould and Larry Sawh for alerting me to this project.


232 - Willkommen in Neu-Yor...

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