If you go to New York City’s High Line, I recommend visiting the bathrooms — and not because their design is particularly unusual (it is not) or because they are particularly clean (they are). I suggest checking out the restrooms, along with the elevators, and the water fountains, because they are part of a sound installation called “Digital Empathy,” by artist Julianne Swartz.
Installed at 11 sites throughout Phase I and the just-opened Phase II of the 19-block-long elevated park, Swartz’s piece uses computer-generated voices to deliver messages to visitors that are an amusing amalgam of advice, gentle admonishment, and flattery.
On a recent afternoon, a recording in the bathroom, for example, told me that I had “abundant vitality and energy.” And then it reminded me that smoking is not permitted. A nearby water fountain assured me that I was completely safe, but then hedged: “However, life is full of unanticipated hazards.” Another water fountain in the vicinity of 18th Street informed me that “proper hydration is a vital, life-improving resource,” and then it listed the many benefits of drinking water, including its ability to give skin “a glowing appearance.”
So go for a stroll on the High Line. And while you’re there take a few sips from the water fountains. It will be good for your complexion!
Audio courtesy of the artist and Friends of the High Line.