Art Gallery

Subway Stories

Subway Stories is an interactive storytelling installation first presented at New York University. The experience begins with a projection of an animated subway car. The train is filled with passengers—illustrations of real-life commuters drawn on subway rides across New York City. A physical "conductor's box" gives users control of where the projection is focused. One handle controls the train's speed, and the other handle controls the camera zoom. The audience hears the thoughts and sounds of the passenger in focus. Zooming into specific characters triggers their "stories"—audio narrations recorded to capture the inner lives of each passenger.

Over five million people ride the subway in New York City every day. Crammed shoulder to shoulder, face to face, and every position in between, subway rides are seemingly “interactive experiences.” Like a horizontal elevator, passengers anxiously wait for their stop, acutely aware of their temporary neighbors. Subway Stories looks to reconcile this isolation through the power of storytelling. Interactive technology provides the tools for translation. Combining physical controls with audio/visual feedback creates an immersive, alternative subway environment that audiences can enter and exit at any point. The project bypasses the socially unacceptable act of voyeurism (i.e., staring at/eavesdropping on a stranger) in public space. This subversion allows the audience to explore the inner lives of these passengers without consequence or hesitation.

Alon Chitayat
Animishmish Studio/ITP

Jeff Ong
ITP, New York University