STRANGER ESTRANGEIRO!

While I have been cutting all day I have been thinking about "To You" and why I like it so much. I am also wondering about parallels between Whitman's city in 1900 and cities 106 years later.

I have found some clarity by reading the transcript of a lecture by the urban sociologist Richard Sennett.

Richard Sennett: Capitalism and the City

Sennett points to the "interactive complexity" of cities. He feels that one of the great virtues of urban settings is their diversityโ€”they are places where we learn to live with strangers. Sennett adds that this interaction with diverse classes, cultures, languages, and races stimulates societies and expands lives. But, he also cautions that the "standardization of public consumption" has caused a neutrality of public spaces, which in turn diminishes the complexity of modern cities. It is more difficult to discover the strange and unexpected.

I like this poem so much because it is so relevant. Whitman asks his audience in 1900 to choose a space of self-knowledge rather than one of fear by welcoming the strange and unexpected.

Even though our cities, workspaces, consumption, and time have been standardized by capitalism and, terrorism has created spaces of fear in our cities, Whitman's poem reminds us to aspire to the neighborliness of strangers by finding new ways to engage with cities and with the people who live in them.

Alley Jaunt also seeks to reinvigorate our relationships to our city by giving viewers and artists a โ€œpassportโ€ to venture off the grid and
(re-)engage with the nooks and crannies of our city.