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It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

pialikesowls's picture

Perspective is everything. When you throw out your trash, you don’t see it as art or something to play with. Those glass bottles you’re about to throw out are probably going to go to the landfills, lost within other glass bottles or dirty paper towels. That broken bike you can’t trust anymore will also make the trip to the landfill, as will those outdated wall tiles that once decorated your home.

Isaiah Zagar sees the glass bottles, broken bicycle, and wall tiles as art. He sees them as parts of his art. One man’s trash is another man’s artwork. The Magic Gardens in Philadelphia show us that our trash can be beautiful; it isn’t just stinky junk that we don’t want anymore. When you throw out your trash, you don’t think that it can be a part of a mosaic that people pay money to visit. Flanagan says that artists “created “situations” and performed art actions complete with instructions.” We use play and art as “a way to rethink issues of authority, politics, and the notion of a cultural status quo.” As a result, I feel as if Isaiah Zagar is using these mosaics to show us that some trash can be used as art and that it can be beautiful.

When I went into the city to see Isaiah Zagar’s work, I am certain that I experienced it in a different way than anyone in class; this is because I experienced it alone. Since I had to go into the city for another the class, I ducked out early and made my long journey from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to South Street. Google Maps had informed me that it would take at least forty-five minutes to get there if I walked, so I mixed up the trip a little bit: I walked fifteen minutes down the Ben Franklin Parkway and caught a cab the rest of the way.

I wasn’t scared of going by myself; in fact, I enjoyed the time by myself. I saw some people from class at the Magic Gardens but I didn’t really interact with them a lot. While walking around the garden, I was able to focus more on the mosaics and the small details, rather than being distracted by socializing with people. I thought about what would happen if someone recognized his or her trash. I wondered whether someone would think about his or her trash being a part of such a trademark Philadelphia site. I wouldn’t think so.

After the Magic Gardens, I wandered around Southern Philly for a little bit before realizing I got too hung up in looking at people’s food down the street and missed the turn to get to Market East. I didn’t mind since I had plenty of time before the train. I walked at a good pace but not too fast to miss something interesting. One street reminded me of the more residential and quiet areas of Manhattan, with townhouses and cute little cafés cramped onto corners. As I walked down a street, I saw a used bookstore. Needless to say, I immediately went in. The week before that, I had also found a used bookstore, which I wrote about. This was the same serendipity. I love the used bookstore concept. This was nothing like Zagar’s work because people do know that the books they don’t want are going to have a second or even third life.

However, when I went into this store, I found a little box full of photographs. I saw photographs of people’s babies, weddings, and vacations. I thought back to the Magic Gardens and Isaiah Zagar. Did these people donate these photographs, or were they thrown out somewhere? Just as the bicycle wheel on top of a ledge, how did a photograph someone’s baby end up in a box? It intrigued me how the intimate moments from someone’s life could end up in a complete stranger’s possession, possibly as house decoration. It was like Zagar’s trash, but more private.

My time in the city was meaningful in that I got to discover Philadelphia without distraction from people that I know. I managed to play, and according to Flanagan, play is “an integral and vital part of mental development and learning.” I like to experience cities alone because I like the idea that I am in a place where nobody knows who I am and I don’t know them.

In the end, I was glad that I had gotten to play in the city alone. At the beginning of the semester, I was a little scared of the prospect of going into the city alone as I am the kind of person who usually likes to travel with someone else. However, this trip was a great opportunity to discover Philadelphia and observe how I play in it. I enjoyed the company of the city; even though I was by myself, I knew I wasn’t truly alone.


lksmith's picture

Pia uses her own thoughts and

Pia uses her own thoughts and experiences to show not only the city of Philadelphia but some of Flanagan's ideas about play. The way she narrarates the essay going through each part of her journey allows the reader to see the world through her eyes and understand play the way that she sees it. The essay flows very well and the structure allows the reader to follow through each part of the trip and how that realtes to what Flanagan wrote. Pia's continuous use of personal narrative in the essay makes her ideas very relatable and clear and helps give stronger meaning to Flanagan's idea of play. 

Samantha Plate's picture

Pia brought many parts of her

Pia brought many parts of her trip to the mosaic gardens together to reflect on a few ideas. She followed a chronological arc but did not let it control her paper. She started with considering people's thoughts when they throw things out and how "one man's trash is another man's artwork". She showed how Zagar fits within Flanagan's realm of play. She continued the idea people buying other people's old things by reflecting on her time in the bookstore and the old photographs. She then ties up the essay by examining how she played in the city, focusing on the new aspect that weekend had in that she was alone. The essay had a well planned structure but still felt natural.