Mad Hatters NYC

Public, Private, Secret at the International Center of Photography Museum

We’re fiercely private people, Lynn and I. And we’re aware — lest you think the irony went unnoticed — that the notion seems laughably conceited coming from bloggers. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

We struggle, regularly, with the ever more blurred and increasingly subtle distinction between the public and private aspects of our lives. Time and time again, we’ve drawn a line in the sand, erased it, moved it forward and back again, in seemingly endless repetition. For most people, this isn’t even an issue. Or, more accurately, it’s not even a consideration. For most people, this line we’ve agonized over, drawn out as some rudimentary, theoretical principle, is a testament to the futility of resisting a new and inevitable reality: there is no line. They believe ours to be a fool’s errand. From their perspective, we might as well have drawn our line near the ocean’s edge at low tide.

So it was with an ambivalent spirit that we recently visited the ICP Museum to experience Public, Private, Secret, an exhibit that was equal parts unsettling and fascinating. It explores “the concept of privacy in today’s society and studies how contemporary self-identity is tied to public visibility” and showcases the work of such talented artists as Zach Blas, Martine Syms, Natalie Bookchin, Cindy Sherman (whom we’ve written about previously in this post here), Nan Goldin, and Andy Warhol.  It also includes live-streams of images and videos from myriad social media sources compiled by Mark Ghuneim and ICP’s New Media Narratives students.  

ICP Museum NYCICP Museum NYCICP Museum NYCICP Museum NYCICP Museum NYCThere’s an overabundance of incredible work included in Public, Private, Secret, which is organized primarily by curator-in-residence, Charlotte Cotton — maybe too much, as others have criticized. Still, there were a number of pieces that left an enduring impression upon me. Upon first sight when entering the exhibit through ICP’s expansive lobby, one is confronted by mirrored partitions, behind which are concealed live-stream works projected on sizable viewing screens. The experience is jarring. The audio from the live-streams, comprised of overlapping narration and a host of other sounds, assaults the ears while one stares into the mirror, giving the sensation of a jumble of noise in one’s own head. On the one hand, it’s as if the mirrors are meant to ridicule us for our narcissism, reminding us that our voyeuristic tendencies are not simply limited to others, but are internalized as well. On the other hand, one might guess its purpose is to compel us to take a good, hard look at ourselves and confront some very uncomfortable truths. Whatever the intention, it primes the audience for viewing Natalie Bookchin’s My Meds from Testament, 2009-16, a montage of found video diaries expounding upon topics such as unemployment, sexuality, and psychopharmacology and Jon Rafman’s Mainsqueeze, which focuses on the darker, more subversive elements of the web.

Hardcore photography buffs might be disappointed with the variety of media in the exhibit, but we feel that it’s important to remember that ICP intends to include photography as well as other forms of visual culture.  The comprehensive scope is true to its mission.  The ICP Museum recently relocated to its new space on the Lower East Side and Public, Private, Secret — its inaugural exhibition — will run through January 8, 2017.

250 Bowery

Mon Closed
Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun 10:00AM-6:00PM
Thur 10:00AM-9:00PM

Pair it with:

Dinner at Le Turtle

Le Turtle NYCLe Turtle NYCLe Turtle NYCLe Turtle NYCAt the corner of Chrystie and Rivington Streets, you’ll find the restaurant, Le Turtle, dubbed “French New Wave” by its proprietors. Taavo Somer and Carlos Quirarte are the restaurateurs behind such notable establishments as Freeman’s and The Smile. By “French New Wave”, one may simply replace the phrase with a reductive synonym such as “experimental”. And that description doesn’t just fit the dishes you order. No, it’s a pervasive, holistic concept, from the walls to the tables to the floors. And though some experiments are more successful than others (we found the portion of the wall covered in what appeared to be gold mylar a little peculiar), Le Turtle triumphs where it counts: the food. The menu includes four entrees and a varied selection of small plates. The fresh cheese with ramps managed to be light and refreshing, and the scallops were perfectly juicy.  Our entrees, which included unexpected notes like bee pollen and grapefruit, were interesting without being overly experimental.  In short, we enjoyed every single item we ordered, and we’d order them again if afforded the chance.

177 Chrystie Street

Open daily from 6:00-11:00PM
Weekend Brunch 11:00-3:30PM

– J.

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Thank you for such an insightful review of this show. I’m going to check it out and ponder my own views of public/private boundaries. PS: I hadn’t realized that ICP had moved!


I love when everything just comes together – between your meal and the museum, it sounded like a very avant-garde day.