In the wake of the recent racist attack on a Muslim cab driver in NYC, I’m particularly interested in the public reaction to the latest project by Tehran-born, Big Apple-based artist Amir Baradaran. For one week beginning September 9, Baradaran will debut Transient, a series of 40-second video installations infiltrating New York’s taxicabs.
Taking over regular Taxi TV programming in 6,300 vehicles, Transient “seeks to capture, challenge and transform the everyday modalities of NYC cab rides.” The video interruption is comprised of shots of a driver’s gaze into the rear-view mirror, or alternatively through the plexiglass partition. While the videos take the separation between driver and passenger as a point of departure, “it was not my intention to make a humanist statement,” says Baradaran, “but rather to create a space of introspection.”
And why infiltrate taxis, and not, say, buses, the subway, or another form of public transportation? “The yellow taxicab presents a striking paradox: the car itself is one of the most visible icons of NYC, while its drivers, many of whom are minorities, seem invisible,” explains a news release. “Recent media reports have inundated commuters with articles portraying taxicab drivers as an ‘other’ class, erroneously intimating that some three-quarters of all drivers actively prey on their fare. Even though these reports have since been reassessed and somewhat retracted, they have created a climate of distrust. Baradaran’s reactive installations emerged from this context.”
While the project, which will reach an estimated 1.5 million passengers by the time it concludes on September 15, can’t remove the physical wall between the driver and their customer, it may poke holes in psychological barrier that keeps passengers from empathizing with those who chauffeur them about the city.