Monday, April 30, 2012

Seeding Time

Our collaborators at MTAA have issued another proclamation of forthcoming urban intervention by digital media and mail.

You might of heard of Flower Bombing. In general, I do not think this will work with pumpkin seeds. I have a feeling that you will probably only end up feeding squirrels. Also, as seen in the linked video, I do not advocate driving around Flint tossing clumps of dirt out of the back of pickup trucks into well kept lawns as this is A.) dorky and B.)  most likely pointless due to the fact that Mr and Mrs. well-kept-lawn, as well as the maintenance workers of Flint, will probably just weed whack anything that does not look like kentucky blue grass. 
Here is what I suggest. Find a patch of ground that is out of the way and will gets plenty of sun. Look for land that seems to be overgrown, ignored and forgotten.  Every big city has them. They are filler spaces stuck in some in between state. This space is perfect for a bit of urban gardening.  In the list, I say “public park” but any open space will do. This could be a parking lot, road divide or even be your front lawn. 
When you have your location picked out, it’s time for some rouge and perhaps nocturnal gardening. 
Read on at the project site for further details: Seeding Time

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Materials for Protest and Memory

Los Angeles-based photographer Farrah Karapetian, a participant in the Flint Public Art Project is currently featured in an interview in ArtForum. Her solo show “Representation3” opens on April 14 at Roberts & Tilton, and her ongoing project, Student Body Politic, will be shown at the Vincent Price Art Museum from May 22 through August 17.

Karapetian began making photograms in 2002 after a trip to Kosovo; an accident in the darkroom resulted in her first cameraless print. Photograms are photographic images created without a camera using photo-sensitive paper. Karapetian felt at the time that the photogram responded to her frustrations with the editorial assignment and the process of making prints.

The immediacy of that experience and the potential for experimentation made her stop using cameras. The resulting images bear a more tangible relationship with things in the world without the mediation of the camera apparatus; at the same time the technique abstracts the image, creating a haunted representational glow.

Her earlier photograms were more formal explorations of process, but as she began to apply her work to site-specific installations and re-enactments of news photographs, the one-to-one relation to material became a way of making the capture, printing and display a social sculptural act.

Accessory to Protest, her show of photograms and constructed negatives last winter at the LeadApron gallery on Melrose Place--a shopping-bag rich strip of high-end boutiques like Carolina Herrera, Diane Von Furstenberg, Helmut Lang, Vera Wang, et. al.--takes the everyday accoutrements of political demonstrations as a primary material and implicitly comments on the location of their display.

A pamphlet widely distributed in Egypt during the spring revolt instructed demonstrators on eight items of "necessary clothing and accessories" for participation in protests: goggles to protect against tear gas, a hoodie to protect your face, a scarf to protect your mouth and lungs, pot lids to use as shields against rubber bullets and beatings by security forces, thick rubber gloves to defend against tear gas cannisters, a rose as a gesture of peace, spray paint as self-defense, and shoes that enable you to run and move quickly.

Aestheticized and commodified through the act of exposure, processing, and display in a gallery on Melrose Place, the flyer becomes a questionable artifact of living history, and the photograms become documents of cultural contradiction, re-situated in a place where the demand for economic activity to drive job growth confronts the radical inequality pervasive in the existing liberal-democratic model.

As part of the Flint Public Art Project--the ongoing program to activate disused sites in the Midwestern city of Flint, Michigan through public art and urban interventions--Karapetian has proposed an installation on the Chevrolet brownfield site that would expose the memory of the former factories, whose outlines remain embedded in the landscape in the form of concrete foundations of demolished buildings.

She proposes to have workers and city residents engage in a series of tours of the site that would demonstrate the persistence of memory and the possible transformation of the site into a public space.

"The tours would have as their guide nothing, initially, but the stories and muscle memory of the people leading them. As these tours take place, a map of the stories would be made: who traveled down this hallway and at what time, who had a breakdown here and a laugh there, who was late to reach this point and whose office was he sent to for a reprimand. The maps would accumulate and intersect, re-writing the floorplan of the former factory. This would be a performance of memory that would write its own script."

"That script could have its own future: it could be recorded digitally, as a scan of the overlapping drawings and a transcription of the stories. This could be printed. If, as the Flint Futures Group develops and realizes one of its two proposals – Flintʼs Urban Riverfront or the Flint River State Park – the Group would like to see one of these maps made into a permanent part of the landscape, it would be very possible to integrate a full-scale rendering of the memory of former workers into the ground. For example, in the case of the Urban Riverfront, which calls for a containment of contaminants and a capping with concrete, the memory-made map could be etched with environmentally safe acid into the concrete, creating a two-dimensional path not unlike a labyrinth or a game of hop-scotch that would re-institutionalize the stories of local people into the land."

Originally published in Heroes & Charlatans.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stefan Eins joins the Flint Public Art Project

The Flint Public Art Project and Stefan Eins are beginning conversations with local producers to develop a cultural concept for public art in Flint, Michigan.

Eins founded an alternative space in the South Bronx in 1978 that was a key inspiration for the Flint Public Art Project.

A pioneer of the Soho artist colony, in 1967, Eins moved from Vienna to New York, and by the spring of 1973 he settled in a ground-floor cast-iron storefront on Mercer Street, opening up one of the first artist-run galleries in the district. Eins lived in a room in back and in front ran a gallery open to proposals from all visitors.

He wanted to sell inexpensive art that was easy for everyone to buy.

Soho had only a few years earlier begun transitioning from a half-abandoned landscape of brick-paved streets lined with 19th-century cast-iron warehouses. The city designated the neighborhood an urban renewal area in the 1960s: it intended to demolish all of the cast-iron buildings and replace them with a highway to Jersey City. But a group founded by a writer and editor at Architectural Forum named Jane Jacobs spearheaded community opposition to the project, and finally in 1968, they succeeded in stopping it.


The 3 Mercer Street gallery quickly became a gathering place for a young group of artists who had barely missed the hey-day of cheap real estate in Soho by a year or two: investors were already recognizing signs of profit and sweeping up land. In 1971, New York legalized live-work spaces for certified artists and set up a board to certify them. By 1973 the Landmarks Commission--established in 1965 after the wake-up call of the demolition of McKim, Mead, and White's Penn Station--designated Soho a historic district, prohibiting the buildings from being destroyed.

                                                        Penn Station

Money discovered Soho, for better and for worse, and as the artist colony began to disappear, Eins decided to go in a different direction. A group of friends had formed a nonprofit called Collaborative Projects in 1978 to apply for money from state and federal grant programs for their work without relying on established uptown institutions. Inspired by images of a wasted landscape of burned buildings and rubble, Eins surmised that the South Bronx possessed its own vibrant culture beneath the surface that only needed to be recognized.

                                                   Charlotte Street, South Bronx

He looked for a space close to a subway stop that would be easily accessible to visitors from downtown Manhattan. At the area known as the Hub, at 3rd Avenue and 149th Street, Eins rented a storefront that had been looted during the 1977 blackout. He cleaned it out and opened it up to the local community and downtown artists. The name of the gallery was "Fashion" in four languages: English, Chinese, Spanish, and Russian, or FASHION 時裝 MODA МОДА. It became known as simply Fashion Moda.

                                                              Crash, Fashion Moda

Fashion Moda became a stomping ground for Bronx-based artists, graffiti-writers, DJs, rappers, and beat-boys, who mixed with emerging conceptual artists from the downtown scene just starting to gain recognition. Crash, Daze, Lady Pink, Fab Five Freddy, John Fekner, John Ahearn, Jenny Holzer, Kiki Smith, Keith Haring, and David Wojnarowicz were among the artists who showed in the gallery. It was the space that launched hip hop into the downtown scene and made graffiti a recognized form in the art world. Shows from Fashion Moda traveled across the country, activating collaborative projects with communities in the Midwest, and participated in major exhibitions in Europe.

                                                          City Maze, Jane Dickson

Eins continues to work in a collaborative manner, producing inexpensive multiples that he sells personally, and creating new models for engaging social inequity through cultural production. Selections from the South Bronx project are currently on view at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, NY. We are very excited to have him as a participant and collaborator on upcoming projects in Flint, Michigan.