Interview with artist Jimmy Ferguson by ArtSite Program Manager, Marissa Lazar

What inspired you to apply to ArtSite?

 A neighbor posted the call for proposals in my building. I had recently moved to Queens from Brooklyn and was looking to connect with the local arts community. Everything aligned perfectly. I live and work in Jackson Heights.


Briefly describe your ArtSite project and what inspired your idea?

Between Neighbors: Jackson Heights is a large-format public projection. The black and white video, on continuous loop during the evenings, will be projected against a building beside the 82nd Street platform of the 7-train.  The video captures the subways of Jackson Heights, and the neighbors who ride them. I began shooting on the subways for a short documentary film that explores the distance between the self and the other in modern urbanity. On my initial exploratory trips for the documentary film, I was immediately struck by the differences across the boroughs. In the vast diversity of New York, each neighborhood, and subsequently each segment of train that passes through a neighborhood takes on its own personality. Of particular note in Jackson Heights is the extraordinary variety of cultures, languages, and faces.


Where will your project be exhibited and why did you choose this particular site for your ArtSite project?

The work will project on a building above Pollos A La Brasa Mario, whose owner, Oscar, has been wonderfully supportive of the project. The location is ideal as it’s right along the train platform in the heart of Jackson Heights. The projection can be seen from the corner of Roosevelt and 81st street, but the ideal view is from the west side of the 82nd street platform of the 7-train.


Will ArtSite be your first public art project? What are some of the key differences between your normal practice and working in the public sphere?

ArtSite is my first public art project. Working in the public sphere is very different from film in both practical and artistic terms. Normally I make a work and count on another to present it; here, I am responsible for the display itself, which has a lot of practical challenges. I reached out to Rooftop Films, who have been extremely generous with their support and technical expertise.  Artistically I find it very compelling to be in a public space. Between Neighbors demands a platform that directly engages those who I am filming. I filmed in public, and thus, the exhibition of the footage must be public. For me, the project could only exist in this way. I don’t wish to simply create a document of this fascinating area, but rather, a work that incites a dialog within the community.


How do you want/envision the public to interact with your work?

 By projecting our subway dynamics in large format on a building in the public space, I’m hoping to give us the pause we typically avoid in our daily commute. By focusing my lens on our individual interactions within the masses of commuters, I hope to spark reflection, and ultimately, a dialog between us as neighbors.  


Catch Between Neighbors: Jackson Heights on view every evening through February 2, 2019.


See more of Jimmy’s work!