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Elastic City participatory walks help New Yorkers navigate familiar streets in a new way

Through Oct. 7, New Yorkers will be able to experience the streets they walk everyday in a new way, if they’re willing and open to the change.

Elastic City is a series of “participatory walks” — not tours — created five years ago by artist Todd Shalom. Shalom, 37, said the walks are more “experience-based” than tours, which are “fact-based.” Different artists host the walks, which aim to give participants a “new perspective on place, form and community.” Another central idea is for walkers to take away “techniques” and “tools” to navigate space, Shalom said.

The walks previously were held over a six to eight month period. This year, the walks are concentrated into a 12 day festival.

“It’s great,” Shalom said. “All of that excitement is now bursting, and so many things are happening.”

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Walks so far have included “Let It Go: A Tashlich Walk,” which draws on an ancient Jewish ritual of walking toward a body of water as a way to start fresh in the new year. Shalom said the walk is hosted by Amichai Lau-Levie, who performs drag and is carrying on his family’s nearly 40 generation tradition to become a rabbi, and Shawn Shafner, an artist who explores waste and our relationship to it. The Tuesday night walk started in Hell’s Kitchen, and participants walked to the Hudson River, where they casted off an item or clothing or utensil.

Shalom said the ceremony is a way to “physically and mentally clear our minds in such a gorgeous way.”

Upcoming events include Wednesday’s walk by Aerialist Kristin Geneve Young, who will invite participants to challenge their own sense of equilibrium by walking with closed eyes, and exploring how senses and brain connect.

Shalom will co-host a walk with Sarah Schulman and Niegel Smith Sunday afternoon in the West Village, which looks at the “gentrification and crashing of different classes” from a “very queer perspective.”

The participatory walk draws on rich histories of outdoor performance, Shalom said, including Fluxus and the Situationists in France.

“But the unique thing about these walks in Elastic City is … really more specifically artist-focused,” Shalom said, adding the audience’s participation in the artist’s concept “completes their work” and brings it full-circle.

“I think I would be delighted if someone walks away with one new perspective of what they experience everyday, certainly delighted if new friendships are formed and if new perceptions of space or of neighborhoods are made,” Shalom said. “And that people can enjoy, can continue to explore and not forget about the idea of play. It’s okay to play.”

Elastic Walks continues through Tuesday, Oct. 7, and ends with a benefit for the festival at Jack Geary Contemporary gallery on Varick Street, which Shalom said will help keep the festival free and pay the artists well.

More information on Elastic City, including a schedule, is available at https://www.elastic-city.org/.

– See more at: http://www.metro.us/newyork/news/local/2014/09/30/elastic-city-participatory-walks-help-new-yorkers-navigate-familiar-streets-new-way/#sthash.Kd1Y2bW9.dpuf