project image
Julien Dorsey

first performed on May 15, 2021
Along the length of 14th street in New York City, walking west from Avenue C to the Hudson River, New York City, NY
performed once in 2021


New York City, NY


For this work, I drew 100 seven circuit classic chalk labyrinths on the sidewalk along the two-mile length of 14th Street in a single day.

The form of the labyrinth is often used as a structure for meditation and deliberation, giving the space and opportunity to pause and reflect. But through this act of endurance, the structure of the labyrinth was unwound into a singular line traversing Manhattan, and the symbols and practice of relaxed contemplation become conflated with ones of resolute production and labor. This created tension between the “normal” idea of the labyrinth as contemplative tool and the “normalized” ideas of internalized capitalism that result in obsessive labor/production. Highlighting the problems that occur when acts of contemplation themselves have become labor, and the time to engage in this form of labor is reserved for the privileged.

Through a language of repetitive performative drawing, the structure of a limited time span, and the particular geographic setting, the forms and applications of the assembly line in service of production were brought to the foreground. To enhance this connection, the performance of the repetitive action was done while wearing a suit.

Working on hands and knees, without stop, on the busy sidewalk next to the noise and pollution from traffic, and the amongst the pedestrian activity on the sidewalk, steady productivity and focus on the task was made the primary objective. Aspects of health and comfort, or even the questions of why and towards what goals the labor is undertaken, were made secondary. Rest and reason were not a part of the performance.

This work engaged with the public through the interaction of observation and discovery. While I undertook the performative drawing, the local audience was able to observe the direct physical implementation. There was also the “long tail” audience encountering the trail of labyrinths as it was being and after it had been developed. This audience encountered the residual evidence of the drawing action in the form of the chalk drawings on the sidewalk. Additionally, the pedestrian traffic along the route interacted with and completed the work directly, through actively erasing the line of labyrinths as it is being made. One could consider that by the time the end of the line was complete, that the start of it had already be erased by a thousand footsteps. Both labor and contemplation made ephemeral by the overwhelming press of progress.