Andrew Wonder's recent and soon to be infamous short film featuring Steve Duncan (http://www.undercity.org/) on the exploration of new york cities prohibited tunnels and bridge-tops tugs more at the adrenal glands of new yorkers than non-locals, but subversively offers to all of us non observant commuters locked into the ritual working trance what should be a core american value: appreciation of, respect for, and a desire to know ones home from every angle.
At first, the reveal of this film seems irresponsible, and a distinctly unsafe romp through our vast and under-appreciated infrastructure. But the curiosity to see if this young man will be hit by a train gradually gives way to the same curiosity we've all had when growing up: the curiosity about what lies beneath, how does it work, and why is it like this? after watching, new york will seem just as forgotten as Atlantis, just as vulnerable as an orchid, and suddenly the same street you've walked for years will seem a blank slate for new ways of regarding.
It may be futile for tourists and new yorkers alike to consider the full discovery of a place as omnipotent as new york. One can live here for 3 lifetimes and never touch every corner. I have read statistics compiled by cell phone tracking that show the great majority of new yorkers limit their life in the city to the same streets and the same social spots and scarcely venture to experience new york beyond the lowest common denominator. In plain english, people seem to shrug off the city's great expanses and simplify life here to meet their basic needs. perhaps this is human nature? perhaps its an effect unique to new york? whatever that tendency is, Andrew Wonder and Steve Duncan do not posses it.
The strong fear of getting caught drives this short but engaging film. And underneath that fear, as is the subway underneath the city, there is a love for the city complimented enough by the knowledge of its history and technical workings, that the experience of watching is just as educational as it is thrilling, which is the films saving grace. What separates Seven Duncan from your average trespassing vandal is this appreciation for the breadth and vastness of a city rife with serendipitous potential. I am sure he will not rest until he has touched the very bed rock we've built it on.
Some suggestions for Mr. wonder for future exploration:
1) Beach Pneumatic transit. fact or fiction? legend says it still exists. there are some who say its all been filled in. that didnt stop the makers of ghostbusters 2 to feature it overrun with slime.
2) how far down beneath grand central does new york really go? the mole people may not be media hungry, but their tendency towards being tight lipped shouldn't abate our curiosity.
3) central park drainage. for those of us with the intelligence to recognize central park as one of the first technological wonders of the world and not as a natural preserve are fully aware that beneath its scenic beauty are miles and miles of pipes without which the park would have flooded over years ago.
4) north brother island. perhaps not that mysterious since discovery channel has whitewashed all curiosities about it, it would make a good adventure.