Art In Odd Places
October 1-26, 2009
The advertising campaign and its drive to generate sales have become one of the foremost obsessions of the United States, particularly exacerbated by this time of crisis and economic downturn. Marketers, who once sold products and ideas, are now selling the solutions to the problems that their aggressive and shameless marketing has caused. Ultimately we are constantly surrounded by advertisements of all sorts. But within the plethora of advertisements an American, or more locally and densely, a New Yorker sees, how many manage to facilitate a sale? This year’s Art in Odd Places (AIOP) event, appropriately entitled “Sign,” aims to question the boundaries of communication in the public realm by presenting artworks of all disciplines in a public and unorthodox manner.
The Common Threads Art Collective (CTAC), one of the first performances of the four-week long AIOP event, tested that boundary on October 1st in Union Square Park with a public demonstration to bring awareness to the experiences of 14th Street retail workers of the past, present and future. In their performance, “PB&J for a Retail Economy,” the CTAC revisited the bread-line as a tool for subsidizing low-wage employment and armed each contributor with a sandwich board that depicted the history of workers’ strikes and bread-lines; meanwhile Rev. Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping blessed the line and all those who had gathered in need of a raise or employment.
While the Common Threads Art Collective offered visitors to AIOP a theatrical and engaging experience, the various other pieces available for viewing on the first day of the event were a bit more inconspicuous. Two of my personal favorites took advantage of the architecture and other structures that are so identifiable in New York. In “Invasive Crochet,” Crystal Gregory takes her guerilla crochet technique and challenges gender assumption by weaving feminine lace work into the crevices and spaces of masculine urban landscapes, in this case a barbed wire fence on 14th Street between 1st Ave and Ave A. Meanwhile eight avenue-blocks west, Oona Stern’s work “Brick,” consisting of three rectangles of neon lights, is reminiscent of a pattern of brick construction. Its physical structure evokes the humble but essential brick, while its illuminations are a salute to neon advertising and implicitly broadcast a familiar message: “Bricks for Sale. Buy Now.”
Art In Odd Places arms its visitors with not only a map of the exhibits that line 14th Street, but with also a heightened sense of awareness that the average citizen or visitor to New York generally lacks. The daily blur of life blinds most people walking through the hubbub of 14th Street; yet when it is unexpectedly lifted and we are forced to confront the space around us, we suddenly find ourselves in an artistic and critical exchange with the public space.
Art In Odd Places spans 14th Street from October 1-26, 2009. Visit http://www.artinoddplaces.org for maps and information on various tours and events.
Walk the street and open your eyes.
Images courtesy of Desiree Rose.