Art of the Real 728x90 Film Comment Film Society of Lincoln Center

Site Specifics: Abecedarium NYC

By Jesse P. Finnegan

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A digital encyclopedia of the city that never sleeps

Inspired by her children’s ubiquitous ABC picture books, not to mention the traditions of avant-garde alphabetizing, experimental mainstay Lynne Sachs concocted Abecedarium: NYC, an exquisite online corpse of cinematic cartography. Pearls of obscure vocabulary, ranging from “Audile” (one who thinks in sounds) to “Zenana” (in India and Pakistan, an area of the home reserved for women), serve as free-associative prompts for local artists. Clicking a particular letter reveals a corresponding interpretation culled from our fair metropolis. They’re typically short video works, aspiring to (and frequently transcending) a certain iMovie lyricism. The films are intimately observed audiovisual slivers, unfolding over a map that instantly scrolls to each work’s point of origin. Gotham emerges as a palimpsest of momentary glimpses and found poetics.

Sachs’s ever-ready eye is behind the lion’s share of entries: her “Foudroyant” response is a particularly potent rendition of the kaleidoscopic Coney Island film. David Gatten (“Rete”) and George Kuchar (“Pelagic”) contribute, respectively, a city symphony from leafily obstructed vantages and a poignant and peculiar visit to a Bronx funeral home. Beyond its homepage’s elegant interface, the project is meant to stand as an ongoing exploration through participatory blog threads and collaboration with other online media forums. Welcoming work from any and all who visit, the site (co-produced by artist/web designer Susan Agliata) aspires to be a perpetual atlas in progress, a sensorium of ever-accumulating coordinates. Abecedarium: NYC is rife with pockets of Web wonderment, serene handmade meditations, and, perhaps most intriguing, yet-to-be-realized potential.