Art Thrives Along the Great Divide
BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Whether you’re the kind of person who rails against change, stands on the sidelines in passive acceptance, or welcomes it with pom poms and a cheer, one thing’s for sure: New York is not the town it used to be — but at least 14th Street has managed to retain some of the personality that has made it an effective divide between Uptown and Downtown sensibilities. Chain pancake houses and chicken emporiums notwithstanding, there are still authentic notes of grit and moments of free expression to be found — especially next week, when 64 artistic projects can be seen from Avenue C all the way to the Hudson River.
It’s the tenth season for Art in Odd Places (AiOP), which engages and responds to the history and heterogeneity of 14th Street — where, AiOP curators assert, there’s room for creativity to thrive among the ever-expanding presence of corporate and private interests.
That creativity will show up in everything from art installations and new media projects to no-tech interactions and roving performances — all in the spirit of using this crosstown stretch as “a test site for the possibilities and limitations of public space…to highlight the spectrum of civil liberties, forms of exchange, and personal and collective freedoms in forming a critical idea of what our urban common looks like, and how it functions.”
On 14th Street, AiOP fills public space with free thought
Alongside your reflective conversation with project creators Sasha Sumner and Nick Porcaro, the video installation “Free Slurpee” draws attention to the 7-Elevenification of Manhattan at the cost of mom and pop shops, by projecting humorous references and word plays onto storefronts.
In “Chess Draw,” artist and activist Clark Stoeckleyv (aka the WikiLeaks Truck Driver) sets up a chessboard in the southwest corner of Union Square, alongside fellow strategists. Beckoning passerby to join him, Stoeckleyv’s strategy involves quick moves and no attacks. Each time the opponent takes their turn, he uses that time to draw them. When the match concludes (by draw or with the artist in checkmate), the opponent gets sent home with the drawing, after contributing to Stoeckleyv’s own collection by having their picture taken (while holding their just-created work).
Another take-home opportunity happens at the end of a free ride, provided by altruistic artists 0H10M1KE & TJ. After placing a call to dispatcher/driver TJ, you’ll soon be enjoying crosstown shuttle service from one festival location to the next. During the trip, their “Drive-By Portraiture” sends you on your way with a commemorative drawing made from “free cardboard materials sourced directly from 14th Street.” Suitable for framing, perhaps with a purchase from Big D discount store (22 W. 14th St.)?
In “Flux Flags,” dozen of flags inspired by nautical signal designs fly atop the old pilings between Piers 54 and 57, evoking the maritime romance of opportunities that lie beyond.
Two events ask audiences to digest the notion that we are what we eat. “Loisaida” is from Lima, Peru-born (and NYC-based) video and performance artist Maria Builes, who will abandon the press normally used to make Tostones, and instead prepare them by hand — as a representation of struggles experienced by immigrants who have settled in Alphabet City. She’ll then offer the food to the pubic “as an act of solidarity and as an affirmation of immigration.” Brazilian artist Felipe Cidade’s “Taste of Freedom” project is a recipe for contemplation about international boarders, cultural differences and notions of territorialism. You’ll be served an American classic — the hot dog — made with ingredients and spices from countries the U.S. has gone to war with.
Based on the Bernard Herrmann score from “Taxi Driver,” the music of experimental easy-listening band Jantar’s “Eight Spaces of Empty Place” will be staged from a storefront interior, with images projected into the street that evoke Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic. By conjuring the dirty, dangerous New York of old in the middle of this much-changed thoroughfare, Jantar asks us to consider our nostalgia for a bygone era within the context of an “increasingly uniform city of luxury consumption.”
Interdisciplinary artist (and city resident) Amanda Davis’ “14th in Fifteen Parts” provides a downloadable recording meant to be played on headphones as you walk from Avenue C to 11th. The sounds were recorded along 14th Street, over a six-month period, with the intention of giving the listener an experience specific to their block-by-block journey.
Several public programs encourage you to take action in response to the festival’s omnipresent concern about gentrification and development. “Horizontal Art and Action” is hosted by The Free University of NYC, which offers open education in parks and public spaces. Artists and community activists will be given skills and strategies to help further social change (through mural-making, youth organizing, pamphlet design, Guerilla media, street journalism and other methods). It happens on On Sat., Oct. 11, from 2-5 p.m., at Pedro Albizu Campos Plaza (enter on E. 14th St., btw. Aves. B & C). FreeUniversityNYC.org for more info.
A pair of un-moderated roundtable discussions take place (1-2 p.m. & 2:30-3:30 p.m.) on Sun., Oct. 12, at Hudson River 14th St. Park (at 10th Ave). Topics include urban planning (or unplanning), big data and digital interfaces, gentrification and development, and the changing face of 14th St. — all in an effort to create a dialogue around the future relationship between art and public space. A “Walking Endnote” begins at 4 p.m. in the park, then wanders about the urban landscape as artists and audiences reflect on the themes of this year’s festival.
ART | AiOP (ART IN ODD PLACES)
Thurs. October 9 through Sun. Oct. 12
Along 14th Street, from Ave. C to the Hudson River
Opening Reception: Oct. 10, 6–9 p.m.
at Pedro Albizu Campos Plaza
(enter on E. 14th St., btw. Aves. B & C)