Assembling an “urban something”

There is a short video I recorded in Times Square in summer 2019. The video shows a crowd of people looking at a screen. They are waiting for something. The situation is occurring at the corner of Broadway Avenue and 45th street. It is 19:53, and the screen is currently displaying some Netflix advertisements about its original shows. One ad, two ads, then one appears announcing the last season of “Orange is the new black.” That ad is the key.

Immediately after the advertisement ends, a countdown is displayed; it also has a message inviting “get ready.” On the screen, a chicken moving from left to right is acting as an indicator of the seconds left for ending the counting down. Everyone there understands the message. People start to get ready. A camera that is at the bottom of the screen starts to get ready. The “technical bridge” between camera and screen starts to get ready either. The big screen displaying the chicken is also getting ready.

The countdown ends. The chicken disappears, and people shout happiness. The camera is recording them and displaying the image of a happy crowd on the screen. Some people are waving to the reflex of themselves digitally projected. Others, using their phones, are recording the screen transformed now into a mirror. Everybody is looking at those pixels turned into a momentary and a low-quality copy of that reality. It is their time to be like “on live tv,” and they are not only experiencing that but also recording it on their devices.

Then, a few seconds later, the activity ends—a short fade-out. The screen is black. A lowly shout of disappointment could be heard from the ground. The regular advertisements are being displayed again. The crowd is dispersed. A new group —mainly composed of witnesses of what just happened— waits for their turn: a chance to be temporally projected on a big screen, in a summer night, in the middle of Times Square.