Life lesson on the CTA Blue Line

Myron Laban

Pharmacy student Myron Laban asks CTA riders to share their life lessons in a short video project. ­(Photo: Vibhu S. Rangavasan)

“If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?”

Over the summer, CTA riders on the Blue Line train were asked this question by Myron Laban, a third-year pharmacy student for his “CTA Project” video.

In collaboration with videographer and UIC graduate Alex Myung, the three-minute video features Laban painting the faces of the riders he interviewed as an audio recording of their nostalgic, regretful and grateful voices flooded viewers’ ears. The idea for the project came from Laban’s interest in documenting the humanity within Chicago.

Laban and Myung agreed to only record and use audio from riders’ interviews to elicit more candid responses.

“It’s more intrusive if you’re taping someone while they’re responding to an intimate question, so they won’t be as genuine as they would if you were using something like a recorder,” Laban said.

“I approached anybody. I tried to have a diverse makeup — guys, girls, old, young, different ethnicities — just so it wasn’t a biased piece,” Laban said. “I would tell people I was working on an art project and ask if they wanted to be involved and then say, ‘Can I ask you a random question?’”

Most people seemed to find the inquiry therapeutic, he said.

“A lot of people have a lot of stuff on their chest that they want to get out but they don’t always have someone to talk to,” he said.

Though the project encourages viewers to think about the advice they would have given themselves, Laban hopes it will also lead to more meaningful exchanges in spaces that are not traditionally used for communication.

“The way I see it, everyone is in their own universe and has their own things happening, so my purpose was acknowledging that people are human beings and have stories to tell,” Laban said.

Laban added that although he is focused on his graduate studies right now, he plans to continue his conversation with Chicagoans about their pasts in another collaborative project with Myung in the future.

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