Reshaping Rochester: Transforming Spaces Lecture with Justin Langlois & Dr. Ian Wilson


Reshaping Rochester Lecture Series – “Transforming Spaces” Lecture and Exhibition with Justin Langlois & Dr. Ian Wilson

Wednesday, June 5th, 7-9pm – The Little Theatre, Theatre #1, 240 East Avenue, Rochester, NY

Reshaping Rochester is an annual lecture series hosted by the Rochester Regional Design Center (RRCDC). The series focuses on the efforts, strategies and successes accomplished by cities that face challenges similar to Rochester, New York.

On June 5th, Justin will be heading to Rochester to co-present the final lecture, “Transforming Spaces”, with Dr. Ian Wilson, a radiologist and co-founder of Wall/Therapy from Rochester, NY.

To accompany the discussion and support the topics covered by Ian and Justin, the RRCDC is also showing a selection of works by Broken City Lab and Ian’s mural initiative, Wall/Therapy in the Design Gallery (1115 E. Main Street). The exhibition will be up until mid-June and includes a wide variety of past Broken City Lab interventions, publications, and other documentation.

Marcos Zotes’ CCTV / Creative Control

Marcos Zotes, an architect and artist living in New York, recently completed CCTV/Creative Control, an intervention consisting of the projection of “an over-sized eye onto the lower surface of the 10-storey-hight Milton Street water tower in Brooklyn, New York.” This particular tower is a very ideal fit for an oval-shaped projection and since it does not display any external lighting fixtures, allows the projection to take center stage.

About the water tower: “Still the highest point in the area, until it is dwarfed by new gentrification plans, the water tower exists as a relic of the neighbourhood’s industrial past. The intervention temporarily transforms this iconic landmark into a discernible CCTV tower, raising questions of private control over public space in the urban context. By intervening in the everyday order of contemporary urban life, CCTV/Creative Control aims at both producing moments of antagonism –however transitory, fragmentary or ephemeral– and finding new ways to practice the city, not simply as consumers but as creators.”

On a conceptual level, “CCTV/Creative Control seeks to question the oppressive mechanisms and discourses implemented in the city through the temporary appropriation of public space.” I find this project interesting in principal, but also because it was executed by an architect who probably looked at the water tower with a special kind of criticism.

REPOhistory: Lower Manhattan Sign Project

Stock Market Crashes by Jim Costanzo as part of REPOhistory’s Lower Manhattan Sign Project

I’m making my way through Gregory Sholette‘s epic Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. Writing as a participating artist and now dark matter art archivist / dare I say historian of sorts, Sholette writes on an incredible number of projects that work at the edges of the art institution in every sense.

Many of the projects explicitly connect art + everyday life + politics and Sholette offers a generous overview of the practices that build the foundation of dark matter in the art world that art institutions and art superstars rely on for their continued existence.

One of the (many) projects that caught my eye (and on which I’ll be posting) is REPOhistory’s Lower Manhattan Sign Project, which curated these alternative history/information signs into a number of public spaces across New York City.

From the project description: “Placed in front of the New York Stock Exchange, this sign challenges the myths of the free market economy and that stockbrokers jumped out of windows along Wall Street after the 1929 stock market crash. The sign documents that government deregulation and fraud led to market crashes and depressions at the turn of the 20th century, the 1920 and the 1980s.”

In thinking about the projects we’ve done and have considered before, these alternative public demarcation projects continue to feel not only relevant, but necessary. REPOhistory’s project was installed in the early 90s — it’s strange that that is now a long time ago and that urgency seems like a form of nostalgia.

Touch Sanitation & Maintenance Art: the Work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles

The incredible weather has me getting excited for the summer, and in the process, thinking back to our past couple of summers, and imaging the summer ahead. I recalled the city workers strike back in 2009 and it reminded me of the work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and I thought it was long past due that I post about her work.

From the description at the Ronald Feldman Gallery, Ukeles spent eleven months from mid-1979 to 1980 creating Touch Sanitation, a public performance art work. She crisscrossed New York City ten times to reach all fifty-nine sanitation districts to face, shake hands with and thank every sanitation worker for “keeping New York City alive.”

And as noted over at the Green MuseumTouch Sanitation was Ukeles’ first project as the city’s new artist-in-residence […] Ukeles traveled sections of New York City to shake the hands of over 8500 sanitation employees or “sanmen” during a year-long performance. She documented her activities on a map, meticulously recording her conversations with the workers.

At the conclusion of the performance she was made Honorary Deputy Commissioner of Sanitation and also Honorary Teamster Member of Local 831, United Sanitationmen’s Association, and I believe she’s been an artist in residence there ever since.

Also worth checking out — her Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969. After child-birth in 1968, Ukeles became a mother/maintenance worker and fell out of the picture of the avant-garde. In a rage, she wrote the Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969, applied equally to the home, all kinds of service work, the urban environment, and the sustenance of the earth itself. She viewed the Manifesto as “a world vision and a call for revolution for the workers of survival who could, if organized, reshape the world.”

This is the kind of work that makes me want to make more art.

Happy Friday.

Creative Time Summit: Some Reflection with 4 Days of Distance

There’s a lot to say about the Creative Time Summit: Revolutions in Public Practice 2, though I’m not really sure where to start. You should start by visiting the Creative Time Summit site and watching the presentations for yourself, then you should read the excellent recap essay by Gregory Sholette and the somewhat brief, but engaged, corresponding conversation that includes some powerful ideas by Stephen Wright (whose presentation we unfortunately missed).

And, perhaps Sholette’s essay is the best starting place to articulate how I felt about the Summit, as it offers a level of complication that seemed to be missing from the Summit’s presentations and panel discussions. For all the effort to create a dynamic structure, something seemed to stall the questions and discussion that I had hoped to hear. 8-minutes presentations have the potential to create a rapid fire overview and starting place for dialogue, but it didn’t often work out that way. Some ideas and arguments needed more time to unfold, but the types of frustrations (productive or not) that came out of last year’s summit were provoked under similar circumstances, and yet Danielle and I left with no more questions than what we arrived with — and that was dissapointing.

We looked at this as an occasion to disrupt the things that we’ve come to take for granted in the type of practice in which we’re engaged, we wanted to hear tough questions that would make us fundamentally take stock in how we think about things like social practice.  It could be though that we are just frustrated with the foundational location of these discussions that revolve around an art world — one that we haven’t really experience nor do we have any interest in experiencing in the sense of an art market or even really gallery exhibitions that really admit to being in a gallery.

I suppose we were hoping to have a conversation that could start with something like,

Ok, let’s assume that there is something possible in art beyond being either inside or outside of a gallery context, and let’s assume that there are models of production that can understand capitalism but at the same time leave the critiques thereof at the door; now about this whole social practice thing…”

That is to say, certainly there is value in those discussions, but if we could just reorient these conversations about social practice and public practice and political art and art made politically to occur around different types of contexts and complications (even just briefly), what might come out of that?

Maybe, though, everyone is just at that same mental point — exhaustion and insatiability at the same time. Certainly, we didn’t help the situation; we went looking for questions that we didn’t know how to ask ourselves, and maybe everyone else in the audience did the same thing. Maybe we were all there, having been the choir that’s been preached to for so long that we’re more confused that ever in wondering about what’s at stake in all of this socially-engaged art.

This isn’t to say, of course, that there weren’t questions asked. To the contrary, compelling dialogue cropped up around a number of the session, and in particular, those on on Schools and on Geographies, but at other times old arguments were rehashed and panel members danced around questions or quietly refused to answer at all.

The highlights were — and I mean to say this with as little cynicism as possible — the opening remarks and curatorial statement by Nato Thompson and the closing essay by Sholette. The concerns articulated in both instances got very close to the issues I had hoped to hear about for two days straight. Questions about ethics, efficacy, and aesthetics start to complicate this way of working in a very useful way for me.

Perhaps it was because we went to Open Engagement and heard some of the same conversations there that we felt a level of rigour was missing or maybe I’m just overestimating what is possible in an 8-minute presentation * 4 + 30-minute discussion format, but I really, really wanted the summit to inspire and challenge me more than it did.

So, all of that aside, I can safely say that we walked away with at least two things: We can’t wait for an opportunity to see Nato Thompson speak again, and we anxiously anticipate Gregory Sholette’s new book, Dark Matter. And, we’ll be excited to see what comes up Creative Time Summit 3.

Commanding: Urban Signs


Commanding is a group of artists/educators/students at NYU who hope to create a dialogue about the changing environments in which they live.

They post signs based on simple computer commands that relate directly to the gentrification, development and hopefully preservation of the neighborhoods that we interact with everyday.

A really basic idea, but quite effective to comment and critique, again another quiet project.

[via Make]

Conflux 2009 Day 2


Day 2 of our trek to New York was filled with excellent adventures, some more great lectures, and lots of discussion. It was amazing to get to see some of the artists we’ve talked about before right here on the blog, and it continued to inform what we were continuing to try to define as our collective practice.

It’s already been five days since these pictures were taken, so I hope you’ll excuse my poor memory for some of what we saw.

Continue reading “Conflux 2009 Day 2”

Conflux 2009 Day 1


We’re in New York for Conflux 2009 and we’re participating as part of Conflux City! We spent the first day catching up on some sleep, then venturing out into the city and touching base at Conflux HQ. There were a number of presentations we wanted to see, all of which helped us to start articulating some bigger questions we’ve been having about our own practice lately.

We’re scrambling right now to finish up our prep for our Algorithmic Subway Adventure at noon today (Sunday), so more details in the next posts later.

Continue reading “Conflux 2009 Day 1”

Tree Museum: Public Art by Katie Holten


Kind of strangely, I read about this project in the New Yorker and momentarily confused it with Canada’s Tree Museum, but ultimately thought it was worth noting given a recent conversation we had with Edwin who came by our Office Hours last week about a potential audio-based community project.

The video above describing the Holten’s project is kind of brutal (especially the soundtrack), but it gives a good idea of the way it works—acting as a kind of series of stops on a museum tour, with a variety of trees being the markers in each neighbourhood.

100 trees give voice to 100 perspectives featured in the Grand Concourse’s TREE MUSEUM. Irish artist Katie Holten created this public art project to celebrate the communities and ecosystems along this 100 year-old boulevard. Visitors can listen in on local stories and the intimate lives of trees offered by current and former residents: from beekeepers to rappers, historians to gardeners, school kids to scientists.

You can call 718-408-2501to access the audio guide.

Agnes Denes: Wheatfield — A Confrontation

Agnes Denes

From Green Museum:

One of the early pioneers of both the environmental art movement and Conceptual art, Agnes Denes brings her wide ranging interests in the physical and social sciences, mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, poetry and music to her delicate drawings, books and monumental artworks around the globe.

In 1982, she carried out what has become one of the best-known environmental art projects when she planted a two-acre field of wheat in a vacant lot in downtown Manhattan. Titled,Wheatfield — A Confrontation, the artwork yielded 1,000 lbs. of wheat in the middle of New York City to comment on “human values and misplaced priorities”. The harvested grain then traveled to 28 cities worldwide in “The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger” and was symbolically planted around the globe.

Imagine turning some the vast wasteland areas in the city (read any vacant big box store parking lot, Brighton Beach, EC Row Expressway) into a wheat field, or a meadow, or maybe more importantly, imagine having a year to make a project at this scale.

[via we make money not art]