NYC art project turns pay phones into virtual time machines

If you ask any native New Yorker, the '70s were the city's worst period in terms of crime, grime, and overall mayhem. But a new art project is harnessing the power of Google Maps and public telephony to tell you exactly how horrible, and sometimes fantastic, life in New York City was in 1993 through virtual time machines.

The project is called Recalling 1993 and it's part of an exhibit at New York's New Museum called "NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star." Starting this month, the public can access any one of 5,000 public phones in Manhattan and call a special toll-free number (855-FOR-1993) to hear stories about life in 1993, specific to the area in which the phone is located.

What makes the project so special is that the recorded messages are all from well known people who lived in the city during that period, including Cey Adams (designer of many iconic hip-hop record covers), Robin Byrd (NYC's queen of public access TV sex talk), Lady Miss Kier (singer from Deee-lite), Brian Lehrer (WNYC radio host), Michael Musto (Village Voice columnist), Chazz Palminteri (frequent New York gangster actor) and many others.

Of course, some of the messages are a bit over-the-top, describing 1993 NYC as a "war zone," plagued with wanton violence and cat-sized rats. News flash: Despite relatively safer streets, the rats are still cat-sized. The art exhibit runs until May 26, but if you aren't able to find your way to New York in the near future, you can listen to the messages, conveniently categorized by neighborhood, on the project's website, and you can check out a preview in the video below.

Via TheAwl

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