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Guggenheim Project by Pedro Reyes Explores Stillness and Quiet within New York City
Pedro Reyes, Installation view: Sanatorium, June 2–5 and 9–12, 2011 © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Photo: Kristopher McKay.

NEW YORK, NY.- While the vitality and stimulation of the urban environment can be pleasant, those living in or visiting densely populated areas, such as New York, can have wildly different experiences. The ever-present cacophony of traffic, construction, and commerce; the struggle for mental and physical space; and the anxious need for constant communication in person or via technology are relentless assaults on the senses. One wonders how locals and visitors can escape, find respite, and make peace with their space in this “city that never sleeps.”

The Guggenheim Museum responds with stillspotting nyc, a two-year multidisciplinary project that takes the museum’s architecture and urban studies programming out into the streets of the city’s boroughs. Every three to five months, stillspots are identified, created, or transformed by architects, artists, designers, composers, and philosophers into public tours, events, or installations. Each edition will be open to the public for two extended weekends, with the first opening in downtown Brooklyn June 2– 5 and continuing June 9–12, 2011.

For the first edition of stillspotting nyc, artist Pedro Reyes (b. 1972, Mexico City) transforms a building in downtown Brooklyn into a temporary clinic, or Sanatorium. Reyes’s project is inspired by New Yorkers’ remarkable fascination with a variety of therapies that help them cope with hectic schedules, demanding lifestyle choices, and often complicated relationships that the city stimulates. As a result, New York counts a disproportionate number of psychotherapists, self-improvement instructors, life coaches, and counselors. In his temporary clinic, Sanatorium, Reyes alters the city’s existing therapy landscape with short, unexpected, experimental treatments. In two-hour windows, Sanatorium visitors experience up to three sessions from over a dozen options through meetings with a series of “therapists.” Balancing reality and parody, Sanatorium draws from Gestalt psychology, theater warm-up exercises, Fluxus events, conflict resolution techniques, trust-building games, corporate coaching, psychodrama, and hypnosis. While some of the sessions should be experienced alone, others are specifically catered to couples and larger groups or intended for families.

Individual sessions concocted by Reyes will include Ex-Voto, encouraging visitors to express thanks for a blessing, which an artist will then render into a small painting; Epitaphs, in which a therapist will facilitate the inscription of one’s tombstone; Goodoo, enabling visitors to channel healing energies into dolls; andThe Great Game of Power, creating a spatial analysis of the hidden forces that control Brooklyn. Participants in group sessions will be offered a varied selection, including Conversation with the Bird orPhilosophical Casino, giving the opportunity to ask Greek philosophers questions on the greatest life mysteries. Through the Tuning Effect (created by Mel S. Kimura-Bucholtz), visitors recalibrate their senses, and solve subconscious problems.

Visiting Sanatorium
Sanatorium is located at the storefront level of 1 Metrotech Center with an entrance at 345 Jay Street, in downtown Brooklyn, New York. Hours are Thursdays, June 2 and 9, 2–10 pm; Fridays, June 3 and 10, 2– 10 pm; Saturdays, June 4 and 11, 10 am–10 pm; and Sundays, June 5 and 12, 10 am–10 pm. Visitors will be offered three sessions from a choice of over 15, with registration times every two hours. On Sundays, June 5 and 12, special sessions will be offered for families, with complimentary admission for two children (12 and under) per purchased ticket. Advance registration is required. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for members. Discounted rates are available for groups of 10 or more. To learn about specific sessions, find directions, and purchase tickets, visit

Online Studies for stillspotting nyc
In conjunction with the projects organized around the city, the Spatial Information Design Lab (SIDL) at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University was commissioned to develop a mapping study on silence and noise in New York City. The interactive map developed by SIDL presents actual noise complaints generated by New York residents when calling 311, the city's phone number for government information and non-emergency services. Reading the complaints offers insights into the city’s noise, and the contrasts between private and social space and between residential and commercial necessities.

In addition, SIDL challenged 15 graduate students from the Architecture, Urban Design, and Urban Planning programs at Columbia University to investigate new concepts of stillness in a fast-moving city. Drawing from a series of seminars with speakers from various backgrounds, student work in the second half of the spring 2011 semester required inventing strategies for collecting data about silence and noise, and visualizing this data into concepts. As a result, the work questioned and redefined conventional ideas about noise, information, the city, and imagery.

A second visual study was developed with students in the MFA program in the Photography, Video and Related Media Department at the School of Visual Arts who are creating video studies of the visual, aural, and sociological ecology of the urban landscape. The interactive maps and videos will be presented on

Schedule for stillspotting nyc
The second edition of stillspotting nyc will be created by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and the Norway and U.S.–based architecture firm Snøhetta. This edition is supported in part by the Royal Norwegian Consulate General in New York. It will take place in Manhattan in September 2011, followed by an edition in Queens by American architecture firm Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu (SO – IL) in February 2012.

Over the two-year course of the project, the group Improv Everywhere will explore the themes of stillness, silence, and noise in the urban environment through a series of performances in public space. Using undercover actors, the group will stage unexpected scenes all over the city for people to discover. These projects, to be developed as the series progresses, will be documented online and culminate in the final edition of stillspotting nyc. Subsequent editions planned through the winter of 2013 will be announced at a later date by the museum.

Pedro Reyes
The work of Pedro Reyes traverses the worlds of art, design, film, architecture, social criticism, and pedagogy. Originally trained as an architect, Reyes often focuses on issues of scale and space while questioning pressing social issues through the stimulation of individual and collective interaction and reflection. Reyes utilizes strategies developed for communication or education, as well as common sense and everyday humor, to engage his audiences. In the early 2000s, he became known for his performance and video works. Since then, his work has occasionally taken on a more sculptural or architectural approach, as in the capulas (penetrable sculptures) that he created between 2001 and 2009. In one of his best-known works, Shovels from Pistols (Palas por Pistolas, 2008– ), Reyes collected 1,527 guns from an open call through Culiacán, one of Mexico’s most violent cities. These weapons were then remade into shovels to eventually plant an equal number of trees in cities around the world. Among his most recent works is Baby Marx (2009), a puppet show for television that lightheartedly but effectively addresses capitalist, socialist-economic, and cultural systems through the eyes of children, Karl Marx, and Adam Smith. Reyes’s work has been exhibited worldwide including the Venice Biennale, the Carpenter Center at Harvard University, the Serpentine Gallery in London, and the New Museum in New York.

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