The mail arrives at 12:30 on Tuesday. There's a letter from my landlord addressed to my sister to renew the lease on our apartment. After two years of living together, my name has not been added to the lease, causing an inconvenience in planning to take over the apartment within the coming year. My sister and I decide to hold a meeting with the landlord, in which she endearingly pulls out a message she has saved from two years ago, the landlord praising my credit score as the best he has ever seen. Nevermind that I also work hard and save, my landlord looks at me with only one line: "As I recall, you don't have a full-time job." I inform him that I work part-time and I am finishing graduate school. "What school do you go to again?" he asks. I say "Parsons". His only response, "Oh...ART". I've been branded as a poor struggling artist, another other not worth his time.
In that moment, I decide with or without the lease, it is time to move on. What I was defining as my 'home' has once again been overturned to be redefined. I have one month to relocate my place of residence, unsure of where I will end up next.
The encounters with Sadar, Bertha, Gong and Lin will unexpectedly cease, any meaningful connection that has been established will be cut. Our relationships and identity are defined only in those brief moments of knowing one another. And it was those moments that defined real value. It was what it was, and I could only make the most out of where I was. Living without taking things for granted, to appreciate as much as possible, while I cannot say I deeply know the characters of this story, I can say with definite affirmation that it was worth understanding them as much as I could. It was worth it because it made me human. The urban drudgery, the banality of everyday transactions was intercepted with the question of what if I knew just a little bit more. If the story of a person is made visible in even the slightest way, they could be better understood, a small but genuine connection could be made in a physical environment among an ephemeral community. By approaching my neighbors I also became in a way a connection, if at the very least a point of neighborhood gossip. To me, that was something because it catalyzed curiosity, and an interest in discovering more about what surrounds me. If I created the same interest in my neighbors, then I considered this project accomplished.
On a last round I go to where this story began, Stop & Shop. In the parking lot facing the skyline of Manhattan, I witness a flock of seagulls sunbathing on the concrete. Walking towards them the birds begin to fly away until they are all in the air around me. I photograph them, migrating to their next destination. In the same way, I continue my migration to a new destination, the same city but a different neighborhood, with new routines to establish and new people to encounter. It continues...
Sonder, A Story is a Parsons The New School MFA Design & Technology thesis project by Clarisa Diaz. All mediums of this project were conceptualized and produced by Clarisa Diaz.
Thank you to Sadar, Bertha, Gong and Lin for their permission to be part of this project, and making this story what it is.
Above all I thank my parents and sister Jessica for their love. Louisa Campbell for her positive outlook and editorial wisdom, Michael Keller for his continued encouragement and support, Katherine Moriwaki, Aisen Caro Chacin, and Liza Stark for opening my mind to computational craft, Nick Fortugno for helping me define this project and feeding my curiosity with resources, Mani Nilchiani for the party breaks, Lynn Maharas for the laughs, Noa Dolberg for reminding me that I am who I always was, Salome Asega for our many conversations, Patricio Gonzalez Vivo for his compatriotism, Apon Palanuwech for the memorable trip to Home Depot, Mauricio Sanchez for the emergency laser cutter, Susse Sonderby Jensen for the printmaking session, my bros at NYPL Labs for being awesome, and many friends who I would all like to thank for their sincerity and support through the thesis process. Thanks to David Carroll for introducing me to the MFA DT program and valuable feedback from Lucille Tenazas, Sven Travis, Jamie Kosoy, Scott Pobinor, John Sharp, and Melanie Crean which all helped inform this project.