NARRATOR: Artist Martha Rosier talks about this piece, which she calls The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems.
MARTHAROSLER: I’m a native New Yorker. I spent a lot of time walking on the Bowery and thinking about how the people who spent most of their lives out on the Bowery were represented photographically and how this was a staple of documentary photography. That it was always people with expensive cameras and students who were taking advantage of what we used to call the “find a bum” school of photography. And this was literally the site of the “find a bum" school of photography because where can you find a bum, if not on the Bowery, the quintessential skid row. So I started thinking about the poverty of representation and the mindless victim photography that was represented by people just going there, snapping a picture, signing it and putting it up in a gallery or a museum somewhere. And that’s the genesis of the work.
I thought my subject is the representation of people who live in these settings. Let’s look at the setting and leave the viewer to reimagine the people within. I realized that I could do this by incorporating language. And the poetics of drunkenness. It turns out that there are more words for drunk than for anything else in the English language. So there’s a way in which the, the poverty of representation that I was dealing with in the photography almost is undermined by the richness and the humor the speech that I put back in.