While the mere mention of a playground fills most of us with nostalgic sentiment, the image that typically springs to mind is of an occupied set of structures, given context and purpose through the creatively charged presence of the young people who claim them exclusively as their own. Towers, planks, slides, and tunnels are assimilated effortlessly into impromptu narratives as secrets are whispered, knees are bloodied, and trial runs at adult constructs are made within the safety of a private juvenile world. In Kids City, Bohbot turns this image on its head, capturing the static, alien world of New York City playgrounds after hours, when the surrounding urban landscape forms their visual context and brings out the architectural particularities and peculiarities of each.
Originally begun to challenge the common adage that New York is not a city in which to raise a child, this series reveals something beyond a mere proliferation of child-friendly spaces: namely, the way in which children’s imaginative projections infuse the otherwise obscure, incongruous structures comprising a typical urban playground with profound meaning and coherence. Without youthful cartographers planting flags and filling in the spaces between the tangled lattice of jungle gym bars, these idle spaces peppering the city lose their charm, even verge on uncanny—particularly seen past their usual occupants’ bedtimes, as they are here. By night, these miniature worlds form their own subsidiary skylines, and cumulatively form a collection of true ‘kids’ cities’ hidden within the larger metropolis, the logic and symbolism of their structures as dependent on their tiny denizens as those of New York City on their adult counterparts.
Text by Elizabeth Breiner