14th Street is a work whose simplicity is as striking as its ability to involve and move precisely because of the immediacy of the gestures underlying the work.
Made over the course of several weeks, always looking out of the same window on the second floor of the artist’s flat, the work consists of a sequence of shots of the street below and the scenes of life that occur.
This little-known video is a fascinating look at a changed New York. What we see, the passing cars, passers-by, a beggar gathered under a building, men in uniform talking, someone waiting for a bus, a group of people gathered around a man who entertains them with a three-card game, a parked fire truck, nothing we see is less than familiar, yet the author’s attention, the camera movement so close to the eye, everything in the image engages and overwhelms us.
The shots follow the eye, now in contemplation, now drifting, now intent on searching for a geometry between one part and another, now intent on chasing a passerby, Tillmans’ gaze is that of an author, in whose postures we find all the intensity and necessity that characterises an artist whose gaze is always at work.
The images, simple, real, full of life, are accompanied by the sound of the street which is naturally mixed with the music playing in the author’s room. The latter, in particular, seems to comment on the images, investing them with a rhythm that, at times fitting, at times with a timbre distant from the pace of the scene, naturally increases the emphasis.
As in all Wolfgang Tillmans’ works, 14th Street is a work through which an irrepressible curiosity leaks out, an intense search for the image through observation and attention to the other. A close observation that opens up a profoundly human approach to what surrounds us, a looking for which familiarity and empathy, friendship, community and closeness become language.