Monday, May 8, 2017

Handmaids in NYC

While we were in New York, my partner and I took a stroll on The High Line, which is an elevated walkway and park near the Hudson River.  It's quite popular with tourists, because it allows great views of the cityscape without having to worry about traffic, panhandlers, or narrow sidewalks.  It's full length is almost a mile and a half (2.3km) long, extending from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street.

High Line at 20th Street (photo from Wikipedia)

One of the landmarks that the High Line passes is Chelsea Market.  While you can't directly enter the market from the walkway, there is a staircase and elevator that leads from the park to its 16th Street entrance.  In that same area, there are a lot of food and craft vendors set up, so you could buy an ice cream, sandwiches, art prints, and more.  For this weekend alone, commemorating the release of Hulu's adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, an art installation was set up in this area.

You can see the bonnets in the very left side of the lefthand photo.

Created by Paula Scher and Abbott Miller, the piece combines dark, repressive messages with inflated language and imagery to frightening effect.  There are bright, red images of handmaids, topped with lamp-like bonnets.  Beside each handmaid is a panel of slats, representing floor boards.  There are "missing" boards that display glowing phrases of resistance, including the most well-known "don't let the bastards grind you down".  In the cubbies created by the missing floor boards, were copies of The Handmaid's Tale that were free for passersby to take. I was lucky enough to walk through, not long after books had been re-stocked, so I snagged a copy! 

The book, with the Hulu promo cards that were being handed out around the art installation.  

In addition to the installation, there were also handmaids roaming the streets and subways of New York.  I came across a group of them around Chelsea Market, walking in pairs and groups.  It was really amusing to watch how passersby interact with the exhibit and the actors.  Some people had a clue of what was happening and why, but many others were completely befuddled. 

Considering how timely this story is, and how much I love The Handmaid's Tale, I'm definitely going to check out the TV series.  I'll probably wait until all of the episodes are released, however, so I can binge the entire thing over a weekend.  Since that won't be until mid-June, I'm going to try and plan a re-read of the book in late-May or early June, so it's fresh in my mind.

I was really fortunate to be in NYC at the time this campaign was going on, and I'm so thrilled to be able to get a commemorative copy of one of my favorite books!   Did you see the High Line installation, or what do you think about it?  Are you reading and/or watching The Handmaid's Tale?

Librorum annis,