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On October 10, 2013, Youth Insights Leaders had the pleasure of meeting the artist T.J. Wilcox. Wilcox’s recent work In the Air is on view at the Whitney through February 9, 2014. In the Air is a panoramic film installation depicting 360-degree views of Manhattan from the artist’s rooftop studio, high above Union Square. In the installation, we discussed Wilcox’s background, the process through which he created the piece, and his inspirations for it.
Wilcox explained that the film was made by digitally stitching together a series of still images and transferring them from Super 8 film to video and HD video. To do this, he had to set up four Go Pro cameras on each corner of the roof. The cameras were programmed to take one photograph per second throughout the day. Logistically this was very difficult, because the cameras’ memory cards filled up after about four hours, meaning that Wilcox had to replace them with perfect timing when the cards reached their maximum capacity. Issues with finding a day that captured New York’s “severe clear” weather meant that he had to make twelve attempts before he was satisfied. He told us that this work would not have been possible to create even a year ago, because the technology to take the pictures and stitch the images together into a panorama did not exist at that time.
Wilcox also gave us some insight into his creative process. The panorama of the New York City skyline is interspersed with short film clips about different historical events or people in New York City. The placement of these mini-documentaries correlates with the actual site in the city where the person was or the event took place. Wilcox said that he wanted to investigate the ways that places such as New York are embedded with rich history, referencing both the past and the present, because as we look at these scenes, we are constantly reminded of what has come before as well as what is happening now. It is as though we are viewing the place in multiple time periods all at once. When asked why he made the short films silent, Wilcox said that he believed this would enhance this quality, making it feel less like the film was grounded in a specific place and time, but instead in this immense confluence of moments.
Our chance to talk with Wilcox was fascinating and extremely helpful, as the Leaders used the information he gave us to prepare a tour of In the Air for our upcoming Teen Night event. Wilcox treated us to some fun details as well about his previous employment—at one point, he was the person who predicts the most popular color for the coming season in the fashion industry. Wilcox was charismatic, generous, and talkative, and we really appreciated what he had to say.
By Teddy, Youth Insights Leader