New York, October 29th 2012

Sandy Marco Anelli

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Text by Martina Barcelloni

New York, decadent capital of the greatest 20th-century empire, is currently telling a tale that seems more bound to the future than to the recent past. In perfect sci-fi fashion, 60 centimetres of water are able to transform one of the world’s best-known urban settings into an extremely unfamiliar and bitter environment, teaching its proud dwellers what is, at the very least, an extremely inconvenient and painfullesson. A few hours after Sandy raged through the region, the City of New York allowed residents of Manhattan a quick return to their customary frenzy, hurriedly burying long hours of uncertainty and focusing once again on more frivolous issues, all on one condition — that daily routine is lived north of 30th street. From this point, Manhattan becomes two cities.

The line could not be clearer as from one sidewalk to the next lights die out with no exception. The new city seems to live in slow motion and under revised laws.

Water stored on the rooftops of the large city blocks gradually runs out, creating a new, clear-cut distinction that discriminates, this time, along a vertical line and inside the guarded privacy of homes. In the space of a few hours, the apartments located over the fifth floor, most often small luxury enclaves, are left completely without water and are, ironically, the first to become inhospitable and, to some extent, extremely brutal. At those heights, those who remain stand apart from those who leave, unconsciously establishing a new mixité; a third, high and increasingly depopulated city is founded.

Not even those who inhabit the street can avoid sudden semantic shifts, which assign the urban space unpredictable and often contradictory meanings. If out of curiosity they choose to venture through the unlit blocks, they soon will be served a highly personal dystopian scenario, in which even mobile phones become superfluous, decorative objects.

While big businesses such as supermarkets and restaurants are forced to stay shut, discarding unimaginable quantities of food and drinks, small shops and street vendors take their well-earned revenge nimbly gaining the favour of entire communities.

For those who decide to return to the first city at nightfall, walking is the only alternative. Cabdrivers rarely stop fearing aggressions encouraged by the prolonged technological silence and discouraged by the prospect of becoming at the mercy of an empty tank. In a few hours, gas has also become an extremely scarce good.

In the dark, even safety is for but a few. Privation of food and destitution of control opens doors to an increasingly wild behaviour, in an unrevealed omen of a near future.